Wireless home networking made easy
Why have home networks?
In the old days most households just had a single PC which was connected to the internet as that was the only thing in your house that was capable of understanding the internet. Computer networks were just limited to commercial establishments or technophiles. If you weren’t into one of these you wouldn’t have to know anything about networking and still live a comfortable life.
But today things have changed, average domestic internet speeds have increased when compared to a few years back. A single computer just does not suffice for a modern family. All this has made the home network inevitable. A home computer network will allow all your devices (PC’s, printers, smart phones, tablets, smart TV’s, gaming console’s just to name a few as the list keeps growing.) to connect to each other and to the internet.
What type of network?
You could have a wired or a wireless network. While setting up a home network it is a good idea to stick to wireless networking as this would avoid all the ugly clutter of wires running through your impeccable house. Now since we do not have wires to connect our devices together we make use of something else known as Wireless Fidelity, or Wi-Fi, which is a simple name for the 802.11 networking standard. This means wireless networking devices don’t need to have ports, but just antennas, which sometimes are concealed inside the device itself through which the devices can talk to one another.
What is Wi-Fi?
Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) device is a simple name for 802.11 networking standard supported by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It allows an electronic device to exchange data or connect to the internet wirelessly using radio waves. These devices only require antennas to do so, which are sometimes concealed inside the device giving it a neat look.
What do I need?
Once you have made the wise decision of setting up a wireless home network you need two things
- An Access Point
An Access point (AP) is a central device that broadcasts the Wi-Fi signal for Wi-Fi clients to connect to. All the wireless networks that pop up in your smart phone when you’re walking around the city, actually belong to a wireless access point.
- Wi-Fi Client
A Wi-Fi client is a device that can search for a wireless access point and then connect to it.
Most of the smart phones, tablets, laptops these days come with inbuilt Wi-Fi. Those that don’t can be upgraded via a USB or PCIe Wi-Fi adapter.
How to choose a Wi-Fi router?
This really depends upon what your requirements are and how much you are willing to spend. But before we do that we need to be familiar with a few terms:
What is Wi-Fi router frequency?
While choosing for a router you will run into the dilemma of choosing the frequency band supported by the router. The frequency here refers to radio frequencies used by the Wi-Fi device: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 60Gz. The 2.4GHz band is currently the most popular, and is used by most existing network devices. This frequency is also used by other devices like cordless phones, this makes its signal quality generally worse than that of the 5GHz band due to oversaturation and interference. The 60Gz band is used only by the 802.11ad standard.
What are Wi-Fi standards?
Wi-Fi devices come with support for multiple networking standards or protocols. Below are the existing Wi-Fi standards, starting with the oldest:
Other Wi-Fi standards such 802.11ac and 802.11ad exist. These are the most latest and advanced versions but will only make it to the market by the end of 2013 or later. It should also be noted that the actual range of your network would also depend on the antenna of your router.
Should my router have USB ports?
Having a USB port has its benefits, you could connect a printer to your router. This will allow you to share your USB printer wirelessly over the network. Connecting an external hard drive to the USB would allow you to share data stored on it to all the other devices connected to the network. This would also enable you to stream digital content to network media players. The external hard drive would now act as a centralized server for all your music, videos and documents. Making it easy to access all your favorite content anywhere in your house without any hassle. But it should be noted that this setup will not replace a dedicated NAS server in terms of performance and features.
Some of the routers with USB ports also allow you to schedule file and torrent downloads on to the connected external hard drive without having to keep your PC or laptop on. This could be a handy feature while downloading large files or torrents.
Should I buy a Single-band or Dual-band router?
Currently Wi-Fi works on two frequency bands, the popular 2.4GHz and the relatively new 5GHz band. Using a 5GHz band would yield a much better real-world performance as the 5GHz band is less clogged and as mentioned previously the 2.4GHz band is also used by cordless phones.
It’s always a good idea to buy a dual-band router if you require a robust network that is a network with a lot of local and internet activity. In a real world scenario this means a lot of multi-media streaming and downloads happening simultaneously.
One important point to be considered here is that not all Wi-Fi clients available today support 5GHz band so make sure that your devices are compatible otherwise they will only be able to connect through the 2.4 GHz band.
Also the 5GHz routers are much more expensive than their 2.4GHz counterparts.
How to choose a Wi-Fi extender?
The extender is only required if your entire premise cannot be covered by the router. The extender needs to be the same standard as the original Wi-Fi network or better. For example, for a 450Mbps dual-band router you would also require an extender that supports this Wi-Fi standard. Note that generally an extender only extends one frequency band at a time, so you might need two separate extenders to extend both the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz bands in a dual-band network.
Finally before rounding up on a router make sure that it has a web-based interface. This will allow you to configure your router settings from any of the connected devices just by using a web browser.