Home networking can be a complicated thing, many questions arise when building one for the first time or upgrading an existing network, things such as:
(Part 1: The infrastructure)
Do I need a modem or a router, and what are these?
What is a switch / hub?
Should I use wireless or wires?
How do I choose the right cable for my network?
(Part 2: Maximization)
Can I improve my wireless signal around the house?
How can I improve my network performance?
Can I give certain activities (like email or facebook) priority on my network?
How can I limit what my family can see on the internet?
Understanding what you need from your network is the first step in getting off the ground.
Modem: A modem is a MOdulator DEModulator, it is the part of your network that connects to a standard PSTN Phone line, like the one you may have in your home. One of these is required for operation of a ADSL (2/2+) service. The modem turns your phone line signal into a signal that devices in your home network can understand.
Router: This piece of a network acts like a traffic controller for all the devices trying to reach each other and the internet via your modem. The router does this via a number of networking tools, things such as QoS and UPNP, these can allow a network to create tunnels for important information to travel down, and QoS (Quality of Service) can insure things like Skype will always be clear and fast even when other people are accessing the network.
Switches and Hubs: These act as splitters for your network, they would allow you to connect multiple devices to themselves, and then have a single cable run back to your router. Switches are ‘smart’, meaning they can direct traffic where it needs to go quickly, whereas a hub will not route traffic. These two pieces of home networking must be used with care, as your router will need to keep track of everything on your network, including devices connected to a switch or hub, having an inadequate router can lead to further problems when you introduce a switch or hub.
Wireless or Wired: When building a home, many owners opt for Local Area Network cables to be routed through their walls, wired networks are not prone to interference and will usually give you faster speeds than wireless will throughout your home. The downside of this however, is that your networked devices are not easily moved. Wired networks are ideal for things like televisions and home theater, gaming consoles, smart appliances, and desktop computers.
Wireless networks offer fast internet access around your home without the hassle of running LAN cables all over the place. Keep in mind though that wireless will suffer in areas that have high interference, a concrete floor between levels, and interior walls.
There are two types of wireless networks available; 2.4gHz and 5gHz, 2.4gHz being the most common and widespread, and 5ghz being optimized for mobile devices and high speed connections where maximum range is not important.
Building your network: Choosing the right type of cabling around your home can be a daunting task, with so many types of cables and routing options, hopefully we can help. There are 3 main types of cables for in wall / LAN applications, and all can be used up to around 60-100m without too much of an issue.
CAT-5 (Category 5):
This is the cheapest option, offering speeds of up to 100mbit/s, 100mbit/s is plenty for most home networking needs, but keep in mind, if you are going to have a home server, or network storage device, choosing one of the options below would be much better.
CAT-5e (Category 5e):
Category 5e is next on the list, 5e supports speeds of up to 1000mbit/s (1gb/s), 1gbps is VERY fast, installing content over your network or streaming HD movies is a breeze, and you wont need to worry about your home network speed for many years to come.
CAT-6 (Category 6):
Best of the best, Category 6 cabling supports speeds of 1gb/s and uses a higher twist rate than standard CAT5/e, if you’re investing in a new home or network infrastructure, this should be your choice. Keep in mind though, cat6 is a thicker cable that is not as happy with sharp bends due to its higher twist rate.
That is it for this week, keep your eye out for next week’s blog post; part 2 of “Home Networking”.
Till next time,