TIPS (Tricks - Ideas - Problems - Solutions)
Planning a Home Network
When planning out your home network, there are two ways to connect your computers together: wired or wireless. The concept, in each case, is typically the same: all the computers connect up to a central router, and that negotiates the connection to your ISP through your cable or DSL modem. Since that router builds and maintains the connection, you can choose to stay online whether or not you keep your computer on, and you can tell it to reconnect you whenever you get disconnected without having to click any buttons, or even be awake.Wired networks, called LANs for Local Area Networks, are usually run with a cable, or a small bundle of cables to each room in your home - those cables can then be used for a phone line, a computer connection, or even a TV, depending on the cables in the bundle, but usually at least one Ethernet cable will be run at a minimum for a wired room. A common bundle is of four cables: two cat5e Ethernet cables, one for a computer and one for a phone, and two coaxial cables, one for a TV and another for a secondary loop, like a security camera or a feed from a DVD player or VCR. This cabling will lead from each room down to a central area, usually in the basement, where the various phone lines can be split onto the main house phone line to share it, and all the computer ports patched to a panel with jacks. From here, each computer can be patched with a short Ethernet cable into the back of your network router to gain access to the Internet. Wired networks require a bit more cost and labor to set up from scratch, since the cabling has to either be pulled and stapled along the edges of walls and floors if your house is already built, or can be drawn within the walls like electrical cabling and hidden away from site for newly built homes or homes being renovated, however, it is inherently secure - no one can connect to your home network without either coming in from the Internet, or being able to physically get to your wiring. This is a simple but effective strategy..
Wireless networks, called WLANs for Wireless Local Area Networks or WiFi for Wireless Fidelity, have grown rapidly in popularity over the past 5 years, to the point where finding a wireless node in your local coffee shop is commonplace. Wireless standards started with the now rare 802.11a and the far more common 802.11g, to the new 802.11n - those numbers refer to the standard by which wireless activity is controlled, but basically, as the letter changes from a to b to g, you get an increase in throughput, or data that can be sent across the wireless link, and an increase is range, or distance from the wireless router you can go before loosing the connection altogether. Things that can affect the range of the wireless network are based on where the wireless access point is placed in the house or building, what materials are in the walls and floors, and how many other physical obstructions are between the wireless access point and the device that's trying to connect to it, but you will typically find the operational range of an 802.11b device to be around 50 feet and an 802.11g device to be around 150 feet, under similar circumstances. The drawbacks of wireless networks are two-fold: firstly, a wireless router will be more expensive than a regular router and wireless network cards for your computers will be more than regular Ethernet network cards, secondly, the range of the network is centered on the wireless access point or router itself and does not care about such boundaries as your house and your property, leaving the possibility open to someone "sniffing" your network out and connecting to it from the street outside your home. "Sniffing", which is when someone with a wireless capable device scans the airwaves for any wireless networks in range and attempts to connect to that network, is the trade-off for having the flexibility to connect your home network together without breaking down the walls, and even browsing the web on your laptop while climbing the stairs into your bedroom or while lounging in the backyard. The good news is that proper placement of the wireless access point can provide optimal coverage for your home and limit the unwanted range outside your home, and that some simple security steps can be effective in making your wireless network a lot harder to break into.