Understanding Home Network Design

What Is A Home Network?

A home network is more or less your internal network at your house that connects all of your computers to each other as well as the internet using a router either in a wired, wireless, or a mixed fashion. A home network is a residential local area network. Local area network (or LAN) means covering a small geographic areas, like a home, office, or group of buildings. Home networks can be used to share files, printers, and/or a single connection to the Internet between sets of computers.

Home Network Devices

The following is a list of devices that can be used to create or modify your home network.

  • A broadband modem is used for connecting the network to the Internet. You can use a DSL modem using a phone line or a cable modem using the cable internet connection.
  • A router (or residential gateway) is connected between the broadband modem and the rest of the network. This enables multiple devices to connect to the Internet simultaneously. A router can include the residential gateway, hub/switch, DSL modem, and wireless access point all in one box detailed as a router.
  • Of course PCs or laptops are a part of the home network
  • A wireless access point (as said earlier) can be a part of the router. However, if you have an older router or router that does not have that support you can get a wireless access point as its own box.
  • Some home networks now have different entertainment peripherals such as DVRs (like TiVo), digital audio players, gaming peripherals, or stereos.
  • A network bridge might be added in a network to connect two different networks together such as adding a wired component to a wireless network.
  • A network switch is a central networking hub containing a number of Ethernet ports for connecting multiple networked devices together. This is another piece (like mentioned above) that can be built-in to a router.

Wired vs. Wireless

When you are creating your home network it is important to decide whether to set it up to be wired or wireless or both. There are advantages and disadvantages to both so it all depends on how you use your home network. The main difference between wired and wireless networks is that wired networks are connected via Ethernet cables while wireless networks require no physical connection. To install a wired network you need to wire all your computers directly to the router or switch. Depending on how far away your computers are from the router or switch this could require putting out very long Ethernet cables accross your house. To install a wireless network you just need to attach wireless networking cards if they are not already pre-installed to your computers. Just about every newly purchased laptop or desktop these days come with wireless networking cards pre-installed so you might not have to worry about that.

Besides differences in installation there are differences in price also. A wireless network can be more expensive then a wired network to setup. Wireless routers are more expensive then wired routers and you also might need to purchase wireless print servers or wireless networking cards for computers that don’t have them pre-installed. Laying down very long Ethernet cables can cost you some money also so think about how much cable you are going to need.

There are differences in performance between wired and wireless networks as well. A wired connection is going to be faster than a wireless connection because data is transfered faster through an Ethernet cable than through the air. It is also important to think about what kinds of computers you are going to be hooking up to your network. If you have laptops then you are probably going to want a wireless network that gives you the flexibility to move around with your laptop. If you just have desktops that aren’t very far from the router or switch then you might be better off with the performance advantages of a wired network.

Security is a huge issue when looking at a wired vs. wireless network setup. A wireless network is vulnerable to attacks by computers that can join on to your network which means all the computers around your neighborhood or office that can latch on to your wireless network and gain access to all your computers connected inside your network. All of your protection from attacks from the Internet are useless once you have gotten passed the firewall and gained access to the internal network. Wired is an obvious advantage over wireless in this area but if you are careful you can make your wireless network very secure. You can read more about security in the security lesson.

Written By: Will Brady and Sharoon Rodriguez