Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wired vs Wireless Networking: What's right for you?

Over the past several years we've seen a greater emergence of multiple PC's in a single family home. Typically you'll find a home PC for Mom and Dad, a PC for the kids to play games and in more and more cases a laptop used for business purposes. All this creates a greater demand for home networks either wired or wireless. With this great demand you often find the question asked is wireless right for me, and what about security. In more and more cases we find consumers opting to go with wireless networks, but that might not be the best choice for your specific needs.

Is a Wired, Wireless or Wireless/Wired Network Best For You?

The truth is if you are using outdated products then no matter what you need to upgrade. Outdated hardware such as wireless B routers are a major security risk. The wireless B standard uses something called WEP encryption which is surprisingly easy to break, allowing would-be hackers easy access to your network. The cost of the upgrade to the newer wireless G standard is well worth the added security. However before going out and buying that new wireless router you need to know your options and decide which option best suits your needs.

A quick guideline:
  • If you are mainly using desktop computers, a wired network is likely to be your best bet. In most cases it is easier to have cable ran from room to room than to buy a wireless router that may or may not spread signal coverage throughout the entire house. Keep in mind that if you have a large house it is likely that your router will not cover the entire house creating the need buy more hardware.
  • If you have two or more laptops, or if you prefer the portability of carrying your laptop from room to room then you will likely want a wireless network. However this doesn't mean you need to use wireless cards in all your PC's. Typically you'd want to setup your PC's as wired and use only your laptop's wireless capabilities.
  • If you share a lot of files with other people in the house: example transfer files from your laptop to your desktop or from one desktop to another desktop. Then you will want to have a wired connection. Wired connections always run faster and transfer files faster across the network. This doesn't mean they will access the Internet faster just that they will connect faster to other computers connected to your network.

Key points to keep in mind when going wireless
  • Many routers and network cards are un-reliable. Make sure you read the reviews before making a decision on your wireless components and don't skimp. Usually the cheaper parts are just that cheaper, and offer a limited range.
  • The range of the signal is greatly affected by objects in and around your house. Things like concrete walls, large furnishing and appliances will all limit your coverage area.
  • Your wireless signal is affected by other wireless signals as well. Not just cellular phones, but microwaves as well as other routers in your area can cause connection issues. A big problem is with newer cordless phones. Most of them run at the same freq.{2.4ghz} as your wireless router and they will interfere with each others signal causing you to either loose phone calls or drop your Internet connection.
  • Signals can be easily intercepted and even with the best security your signal is still being transmitted and can be intercepted.
  • Overall cost can be a major concern. Wireless routers currently cost $50+ for a decent router and $30+ for a network card. While decent wired routers typically are much cheaper and most computers come with onboard network adapters.

A few wireless marketing myths to avoid
Do not buy into the marketing hype of "super G" "turbo-G" or "speedbooster". They simply are not any faster nor are they any better than regular wireless G. It is also best to stay clear of "pre-N". Manufactures may boast greater range and faster speeds but as of yet pre-N has not been approved as an industry standard.

The cons of being hard wired
  • You are limited in mobility, basically you are wired to one room unless you wire terminals through out the house.
  • Wires are very unsightly. Even if you have terminals in every room you'll still have a cord running from your computer to the wall.
  • Portability may be a major concern. Your connection is limited to the rooms you have pre-existing wires in. With a wireless connection your connection goes with you anywhere in the house and in most cases a limited range outdoors.
  • Wireless hands down beats out wired in terms of convenience. With a wired network you'll have to worry about running wires throughout your house. Usually this means crawling around in tight places, or having a technician come out and do that for you.

The final call
There are going to be many more factors to consider mostly your current hardware and software as well as the size of your house and your particular needs. It is best to consider all the factors before ruling out one or the other.

If you do decide to go wireless please make sure you have your network secure
I'll be creating an easy to use guide to network security shortly however here are a few tips. Typically you can make all the following changes by typing one of the following in your browsers address bar or
  • Secure your wireless router or access point administration interface. Your router has a log-in ID that you need to change to something specific for you.
  • Enable WPA encryption instead of WEP. WEP is better than nothing but to date WPA and WPA-2 have been unbreakable.
  • Disable remote administration, most routers have the ability to be remotely administered via the Internet. That's means almost anyone anywhere could potentially find and access your router. As a rule, unless you absolutely need this capability, it's best to keep remote administration turned off. (It's usually turned off by default, but it's always a good idea to check.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments will be moderate for content, please be patient as your comment will appear as soon as it has been reviewed.

Thank you