Computer Corner #25
By Bob Habas
Formally of computer Connections

Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) Networking.

Most homeowners have two choices for moving data around their home: Wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi.
Wired Ethernet
Nothing today beats gigabit Ethernet for moving data around the home. Gigabit Ethernet translates to a maximum throughput of 1000 megabits per second. The primary standard for gigabit today is 1000Base-T; which runs over twisted-pair copper wiring. If you plan on using gigabit Ethernet, you'll need Cat 5e (Category 5e) wiring. You can also use Cat 6 cabling, though that's overkill for gigabit Ethernet.


If you can't run cables through your house, the next best setup is Wi-Fi.
Right up front; 802.11n Wi-Fi sounds great -- offering throughput up to 300 megabits per second, and no wiring hassles -- it isn't ideal if you want to do lots of media streaming and moving big files around.
On the other hand, if you simply want to connect a small number of PCs, Wi-Fi may be the right way to go for you. Wi-Fi is a quick and easy way to connect several business laptops, Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones, and light-duty devices such as an Apple iPad or a netbook.
What Kind Of Wi-Fi Do You Need?
If Wi-Fi is your only alternative, definitely go with 802.11n. The prices of 802.11n routers and access points have dropped substantially, so there's no point in using older 802.11g gear; which is rated at 54 megabits per second.
When you're shopping for equipment, here are several key features to look for.
• Simultaneous dual band: Such routers can support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz or 5.8GHz. Only a few routers fully support 5.8GHz; you'll get increased bandwidth, but you'll also sacrifice some range, particularly through walls. Some newer routers may include a pair of 5GHz radios.
• Multiple antennas: You'll want an 802.11n router with two antennas at a minimum. Some home routers may have no visible antennas, but carry multiple antennas embedded in the case. That's okay for moderately sized homes.
• Replaceable antennas: If you have longer range requirements, consider a router with external, replaceable antennas. These typically attach to a small, coax-style connector. Antennas are widely available from a number of sources, and come in a variety of sizes and configurations.
The D-Link® Xtreme N™ Dual Band Gigabit Router (DIR-825) uses dual band technology to support 2.4GHz & 5GHz wireless signals at the same time. This allows you to check e-mail and browse the Internet using the 2.4GHz band while simultaneously streaming High-Definition (HD) movies and other media on the 5GHz band. The DIR-825 is designed for users looking to get a true HD wireless connection that can handle multiple HD video streams throughout the house, while being backward compatible with existing 802.11g and 802.11a products.


Mixed-Mode Networks
Most homes and SOHOs (Small Office/Home Office) use use a mixed-mode, wired and Wi-Fi network. Professional electricians run structured wiring to several key rooms in the house, including the living room, the family room, and the kids' bedroom. Everything is tied together with structured wiring into a central panel in the basement, in the storage area adjacent to one of the two home offices.
This works well for most households: You have wired networking where you need it, and Wi-Fi access throughout the house. Of course, your needs may be simpler -- you might want wired networking in just one room, and Wi-Fi in the rest of the house.

Depending on your needs, just a single router with four Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi access-point capability may get the job done. Or your requirements may be more complex, in which case you'll prefer to run wires to multiple rooms, as well as to include wireless repeaters or range extenders as necessary.


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