A wireless network is simply two or more computers linked together by invisible radio waves with the purpose of transferring data or sharing resources. The configuration is similar to cordless phones in that they can share one telephone line, which utilizes one central "base" station along with multiple handsets placed throughout the house. Wireless networking is an excellent solution because you don't have to deal with cables and it takes little effort to expand.
There are two kinds of wireless networks: Ad-hoc mode
: Each computer in the network with a wireless adapter can communicate directly with each other without the use of a router or access point. You can share files and printers with this method. However, it is more difficult to connect to networks - both wired and wireless. This mode is also known as peer-to-peer networking. Infrastructure mode
: Each computer in the network uses a router or access point to handle all data transfer and network traffic. You can easily access a wired network, whether it is a LAN or the Internet. For most home networking purposes, infrastructure mode is the best choice.
Wireless StandardsWireless-B (802.11b)
- Operates on the 2.4GHz frequency band and can transmit data at speeds of up to 11Mbps within a range of up to 100-150 feet. Wireless range can be affected by reflective or signal-blocking obstacles, such as mirrors, walls, devices and location, whether indoors or outdoors.Wireless-A (802.11a)
- Operates at the frequency of 5GHz, which is less crowded than 2.4GHz where telephones and microwaves may cause interference. Although the speed is up to 54Mbps, the range is only up to 75 feet. Wireless-A is incompatible with both Wireless-B and G because it operates at a different frequency.Wireless-A+G (802.11a + g)
- Linksys also offers dual-band products, in which routers and adapters are compatible with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Both radio bands work simultaneously, blanketing your wireless zone and bandwidth.Wireless-G (802.11g)
- Features the same benefits as Wireless-B, but offers 5X the speed at up to 54Mbps. Wireless-G currently offers the best combination of performance and value. You can mix Wireless-B with Wireless-G equipment, but you will lose the higher performance speeds of Wireless-G.
The chart below outlines the differences and features for each wireless standard, along with the activities that are best suited for each one.
Once you've chosen the type of network (wired or wireless) for your home, here is the basic network hardware that you'll need: Router
: This is considered the heart of your network and is the device that routes all the traffic to and from the Internet to the various computers on your network. It lets you share files and printers, and provides a basic layer of security from Internet threats. High-speed Internet Connection (either DSL or cable)
: You can purchase High-speed Internet service from your local telephone (for DSL) or cable company. Both types of connections are considerably faster than dial-up access. High-speed Internet is also commonly referred to as broadband. Modem
: Connects your Internet service to your computer so you can surf the Internet and access your e-mail. Depending upon what type of broadband service you have, you must purchase or rent either a DSL or cable modem. Or, you can purchase a modem from your local electronics retailer or e-retail store. Linksys offers a gateway router which is an all-in-one solution that combines the functions of a router with a cable or DSL modem so that two separate devices are not required.Network Adapter
: Allows your computers to connect to the network. If you already have a wireless or network adapter pre-installed in your computer, you may not need to purchase one. There are different types of adapters available, depending on if you have a desktop or laptop computer.
For a Desktop Computer:
- A PCI Adapter - connects inside your computer, requiring you to remove the outside case.
- A USB Adapter - does not require you to remove the outside case since it simply plugs into a USB port on the outside of your computer.
For a Laptop Computer:
How Routers Work ?
- A PC (PCMCIA) Card - about the size of a credit card and simply slides into a slot on your laptop computer. This type of card is recommended when using a wireless network setup since you can walk around without having to juggle an external adapter.
- A USB Adapter - simply plugs into a USB port on the outside of your laptop computer.
The Router is the central component in connecting all of your computers and network devices together, allowing them to access and share one high-speed Internet connection. It organizes all of the devices in the home network so that they can communicate with each other and share information. A Router combines the functions of a switch, which organizes and controls data flow among your computers and network devices. A switch is best for wired networks that want to share files and printers, but does not provide Internet access capability.
A Router joins two networks, your home network and the Internet, passing information from one to the other. It also determines how the information is passed in the most efficient manner. The router's two main jobs are:
- To make sure that information doesn't travel where it's not needed.
- To make sure that information travels to its intended destination.
The Router also provides security measures to your network which prevent outside users from accessing your private data. This is important because a high-speed Internet connection is always on, which makes it more vulnerable to attacks from hackers. You may already have a basic software firewall installed on your computer, but the network can still be easily broken into.