Let's cast off and take some time to talk about networks.
All most people know about a home network is that they need one, and that they want it to work. At Hi-Fi Systems, we always strive to educate our customers, and last month we talked about how important a home network can be. This month, we're going to look at a few popular home-networking solutions and analyze the benefits of each one. By the end, not only will you know a little bit more about networking, but hopefully you'll be well equipped to decide which one would be the best fit for your home!
A Little Lingo
Before we start talking about home networking, here’s a helpful note: Your home network is also referred to as a Local Area Network, or LAN for short. This also comes into play if you start looking at a VLAN -- this is a virtual local area network. Essentially, it's a virtual group of devices within your home that help you prioritize traffic and protect important information by keeping it separate from devices that can be easier to hack. A typical home is going to have one LAN -- you are most likely using it to read this article right at this very moment.
When it comes to home networks, there are two main types: Wired and wireless. This refers to how your devices accessing the internet connect to your LAN. For a wired network, this usually comes into your house from your cable line and then plugs into a modem and/or router. From there, devices throughout your home are hardwired via ethernet cabling back to the modem through an ethernet switch.
This type of connectivity is common in new construction where we are easily able to run wire throughout the home. The advantages of a wired home network are noticeable-- hard lined, wired networks are always going to be faster and more reliable than wireless networks. Wired networks have more bandwidth and aren’t impacted by range and interference the way wireless is. Your only real bottleneck is the type/speed of your router and the internet speed you are paying for.
Of course, there are limitations to wired as well and why wireless (Wi-Fi) is so popular.
With a wireless network, you can access the internet without being hardwired in. A perfect example of this is using your tablet or mobile device while wandering throughout your home. And while hardwired is preferred for static devices like your equipment rack or TV, after a home is built, there may be areas where running new wires is impossible. This is where wireless shines: the ability to extend the range of internet throughout your home and to outdoor living spaces with minimal new wiring and without devices being hardwired.
The main sticking points of wireless networks are going to be speed and reliability. Wi-Fi signals can get interference from other electronics devices -- even your fridge -- and if you are living near your neighbors, your Wi-Fi network can actually overlap with theirs and slow things down for everyone. Depending on the size of your home, you may also need multiple access points to ensure even coverage throughout the home The general rule of thumb is to have one wireless access point for every 1500 square feet, and you also have to remember to include your backyard in that if you want outdoor access, as well. It is important to note that most wireless access points (WAPS) still require power and may also need an ethernet connection back to the main router, which means wireless isn’t truly wireless.
Bonus tip: If you've ever seen weird numbers and letters thrown around like 802.11ac, that has to do with the wireless standard that your router is using. 802.11ac is faster than the previous 802.11n, so be aware of that, too.
At first, home networks might seem very complicated, but they really aren't that tricky once you have the high-level concept down. You aren't alone in figuring out your home network, either! That's what we're here for and we're glad to help -- head on over to our contact page or give us a call today at 580-765-6488.