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EYO’s Guide Home Networking

EYO’s Guide to Home Networking

The idea of “being connected” at home is no longer just a simple case of a computer plugged straight into a broadband modem. Home networks are becoming pretty complex, as people create ever-more elaborate systems to spread that connectivity into every room of the house.

The home network usually starts with the entry point, and overwhelmingly that is a broadband ADSL or cable modem (mostly ADSL). Because broadband connections require account usernames and passwords, many users opt for a broadband router to handle the authentication automatically and to give a basic level of security with an in-built firewall. But routers have moved well beyond such limited functionality, and even the most basic broadband router like the Netgear RP614 provides a multi-port switch and address translation services (NAT) to enable users to connect multiple computers to the same port.

Some routers are geared towards specific tasks like the D-Link DGL4100, which is pre-configured to allow connectivity for a host of online games as well as parental controls, VoIP and multimedia. Other routers offer switching capabilities plus act as a print server for shared local printing, while others don’t have a wired switch but act as a wireless gateway.

For more advanced users, home network complexity happens beyond the router, where the important features are security, flexibility and features. Complex home networks look at how to get connectivity in every corner of every room. Although wireless points and adaptors are the most common method of distributing home networks, wired connections still offer the best throughput signal quality. Wired switches and hubs are generally used to connect multiple network nodes quickly and securely, although switches like LinkSys DGS-1008D offer dedicated, collision-free circuits for each individual port, whereas network hubs don’t, and aren’t really suitable for clean high-bandwidth networking.

However, sometimes you can’t run wires everywhere, and wireless networking is certainly incredibly popular as the backbone of home networks. The most popular wireless standard at the moment is 802.11g, which comes in two forms – 54Mbps and 108Mbps. Some routers are pushing this standard even higher, like the ASUS WL520G which offers 125Mbps, although this requires a client wireless adaptor capable of connecting at this speed. Wireless signals do have a tendency to degrade in homes however, as common household appliances like cordless phones and microwaves operate on the same signal frequency, and thick walls also diminish the signal. Some units like the Netgear WG511U attempt to get around this problem by offering an 802.11a signal which operates on a higher and clearer frequency, while others like the ASUS WL550GE use signal-boosting technology to increase the effective range.

Don’t forget though, to change the default factory settings of any wireless device you buy and to turn on all the security features. Factory defaults are very easy to track down on the internet, and many users have unwittingly had their monthly download limits used up by a neighbour, or found themselves maliciously locked out of an exposed wireless broadband router.

Because broadband is so widespread and can transmit almost any type of networking communication, users are leveraging off it to make free point-to-point voice calls to friends interstate and overseas. Skype is an incredibly popular voice service, and there are many Skype-enabled products like Netgear SPH101-100AUS or the Laser Dual Function PSTN/VoIP phone.

IP video is also extremely popular. Apart from standard webcams while leverage off the computer’s network connection, there are a range of standalone products for communication and even security. The Netcomm NS370W camera plugs into the wireless network while the D-Link DVC-1000 turns your TV into a broadband video phone.

There are many great products out there to get your broadband connection working effectively and sometimes it’s confusing trying to decide which. Just remember that a simple network is always the most effective!

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