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Home Networking

A network allows a single broadband account to be shared throughout the home. Unfortunately, such networking is impractical with dial-up Internet service–one of several reasons you might want to consider broadband if you are still living in the dark ages. WHAT’S AVAILABLE Home networking has improved over the years in the range, speed, and cost of wireless networks. If you own a laptop computer that has wireless capability, a wireless network now allows you to surf the Web at broadband speeds from most places in your house, yard, or apartment. Wired networking is far from obsolete, however, since it still provides the most secure and reliable connections. Indeed, for many households the best solution for sharing a broadband connection–or a printer, music files, or digital photos–among multiple computers might be a network that includes both wired and wireless. Ethernet, or wired networks are very secure, reliable and usually immune to interference. They offer the fast data transfer, enough for virtually any data application. IMPORTANT FEATURES One drawback to wired networks is that you can’t easily move your computer around the home. Routing cables throughout the home can be a hassle or expensive. Price range: $50 to $100 for one router and a cable to connect two fairly new computers. Also, there might be additional costs for routing cable through the home. There are no cables to connect or route with a wireless network, and there are minimal installation costs. Mobility is the key–the wireless network supplies signals virtually anywhere around the home. You will need to take additional steps in terms of security, without which your data is vulnerable to hackers. Thick walls can reduce signal strength, which might vary in different areas of the home or even within a room. HOW TO CHOOSE   Plan your network. You’ll probably want to locate the router near the source of your broadband service–usually a cable or DSL modem. The router and the modem will be connected by an Ethernet cable. But the connections between the router and the computers in the network might be either wired or wireless. Choose a wireless router. That is the official term for the models that support both Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Even if you don’t need wireless capability now, acquiring it costs little extra compared with a wired model, and might spare your having to replace the router if you want to add a wireless device to it in the future. Stick with a wireless standard. Wi-Fi is continually evolving, with new standards designed to increase broadcast range and speed, thus increasing the network’s ability to handle new types of information. The name of the standard is usually listed on the router’s package, as a letter suffix to the technical term for Wi-Fi, which is 802.11. Currently the most common standard is known as 802.11g. If you already have a wireless network that uses 802.11a or 802.11b, two older standards, consider upgrading only if you find the range, speed, or reliability of your network wanting. Consider whether and how you’ll share a printer. A network lets you avoid the cost of putting a printer in every room by sharing one. To do this, you can use a printer with built-in network capability. It’s possible to share a non-networked printer by attaching it to any PC connected to the network, though you must leave that computer on when you’re printing. Consider networking issues for other devices. An increasing number of devices that typically connect to a single computer–PDAs, printers, and video-game consoles–are now Wi-Fi compatible. If you plan to connect any of them to your network, make sure they’re compatible with the network security you set up. Check whether you need to buy adapters. Every computer on your network will require an adapter to allow it to communicate with the network; the question is whether it already has one built in. If you’re using Ethernet to connect a computer bought within the past three years or so, the adapter will most likely be built into the unit. The same applies to recent-vintage laptops, which should have built-in 802.11g capability. Visit for a full selection of Networking Equipment and Supplies