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Cutting Through the Jargon: What You Really Need to Know About Home Networking

Home networking isn’t as straightforward as connecting one device to another. And, unfortunately, there’s often a lot of technical terms and difficult jargon thrown into the mix, which just adds to the confusion.

So, to help you make sense of your home networking solution, we’ve put together these simple steps:

What Do You Need from Your Home Network?

Firstly, you need to understand what it is that you want from your home network.

Do you just want to be able to connect a desktop computer, laptop, and your cell phone to the Internet? If so, a single 802.11n access point might be sufficient enough for your usage. However, if you’re a serious online gamer and you’re constantly connecting to multiplayer games through services like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, you’ll need to invest in a decent router while also adding to this with key router capabilities like port forwarding.

Equally, if you frequently stream movies or TV through the Internet in different areas of your home, you’ll need to create a reliable infrastructure, which you can do with a wired network. (Having high-quality wires for this can help).

Finally, if you work from home a lot and need to access your work through virtual private network (VPN) technology, you’ll need to find a router that’s able to deal with VPN passthrough.

Is Wi-Fi the Right Choice for You?

Wi-Fi often seems like the savviest choice when creating a home network, however, it does have its downsides. Even though you may be impressed by the sound of 802.11n and the fact it can offer you a throughput of 300 megabits per second (that’s not to mention the fact there aren’t any wires), it’s not the best choice if you’re uploading/downloading lots of large files or streaming media.

However, as mentioned previously, if you’re only looking to connect a couple of devices to your Wi-Fi and you don’t hammer the Internet with games, movies, and so on, it should be more than adequate for you.

If you do like how convenient Wi-Fi is for connecting your cell phones and laptops, you may benefit from a mixed network, where you use a combination of Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

When choosing Wi-Fi you’ll definitely want to plump for 802.11n, which is the newest model available. Older models may be slightly cheaper but the prices of 802.11n access points and routers have dropped quite a lot recently, so you’re getting a lot more for your money.

Equally, if you do need to bring your Wi-Fi to wired-only devices, e.g. your Xbox 360 console, there is what’s called a “wireless bridge” which connects your device directly. And when you want to extend the range of your Wi-Fi there are a number of ways you can do this, including using further access points around your home or a dedicated range extender that maximizes your Wi-Fi signal.

When you’re looking for a home networking solution, the key thing to consider is what your requirements are. Knowing this will enable you to find a solution that meets up to the daily demands of your household’s Internet usage.