What is a Home Network?
A home network is having all wireless or wired internet systems from your HD television, your home and/or office computers, printers, Smart TV’s, and laptops all networked and playing nice together. Now that our movies and music are being streamed to us over wifi and Ethernet connections, home networks are steadily becoming the main backbone of any home theater system. Almost all audio video components arriving on the market today come with either a wireless adapter, Ethernet jack, or both.
The devices that make up your home network may include a Modem, a Router, Switches and Wireless Access Points. They may also include combinations of these devices such as Wireless Bridges, Wireless Repeaters, Gateways and Wireless Routers.
A Modem is responsible for converting the internet signal from your ISP, such as Cox or Centurylink, into a language your router can understand. It also takes signals your from your home devices and converts them back into a language that your ISP (internet service provider) can understand. The reason modems are necessary for your home network is because Cox or Centurylink use existing cabling such as telephone lines and cable TV wires to get internet to your house. The process to communicate digital signals over these wires is a bit complex and requires special converters called modems. One interesting fact about your internet company is that they too have a modem very similar to yours at their office that connects to your modem in your home.
Once the internet signal is in a format your modem can understand, it is the router’s job to create a virtual wall between the rest of world’s network devices and the devices in your home. This virtual wall is much like the physical walls in your home and it has a door way that only lets in and out data that you welcome inside. While it is possible to connect to the internet without a router it is not recommended. Connecting directly to the internet without a router would be like opening your front door and putting a sign outside saying “Free stuff”. Your router manages and mediates the conversation between your devices. It tells your devices when and how they can talk to each other so they all get along. One router is all you need in your home. Having two routers not properly configured is like having two bosses that don’t like talking to each other giving opposing orders. It’s a mess. However, your router and your modem can be combined to form one seamless device that performs both functions. This is called a gateway. These are usually sold or leased directly from your internet company.
A network switch is basically a network splitter or hub. It allows multiple devices to link to each other. Switches can be used convert one Ethernet line to multiple Ethernet lines. This might come in useful for instance if you have a BluRay Player, Apple TV, and Smart TV that all need Ethernet lines. However, there is only one Ethernet cable going to your home theater cabinet. You may also use a switch at your computer desk to connect your laptop, printer, and desktop pc to one Ethernet connection that leads back to your router. It is important to understand that switches can either be stand alone devices, or be integrated into your router. Most consumer routers come built in with at least a 4 port switch.
Wireless Access Point
A wireless access point creates a wireless or wifi network. Wifi allows for fast data wireless communication, and the technology is improving every year with the speeds continuing to get faster. Current wireless technology allows for 900 megabytes a second to be transferred over the air. A wireless network is created from a wireless access point. A wireless access point is basically a radio and antenna that transmit and receive radio waves to and from your device. That’s it! There are some additional features such as WPS security that keep your network secure but an access point’s basic job is to broadcast a network signal and convert wireless signals into wired signals and vice versa.
A wireless router is basically a router, a switch, and wireless access point all put into one device. This makes setting up your wireless home network much quicker and easier. A wireless router should not be confused with a wireless access point which only broadcasts a wifi signal. A wireless router will also manage your network devices and create a virtual wall between your home network and the internet. Many people may not understand the difference between the two and might be inclined to use a wireless router to extend the range of their home’s wireless network. Using a wireless router in this fashion will almost surely create problems with speed and reliability of your network and may even render it unusable. Your home network setup in Phoenix should never have two routers attached at the same time. Unless you are doing very advanced networking in your home, and you have a professional configure your routers which we do at INFINITY HD, having one and only one router is the best way to keep your home network fast and reliable.
A wireless gateway is basically a modem, a router, a switch and a wireless access point all put into one device. Wireless gateways are usually purchased or leased from your internet service provider as well. It’s basically a one stop shop for internet and wifi. It is the simplest way for you to get wireless internet without knowing anything about networking.
Wired Networks Vs Wireless Networks
It is likely you already have both in your home. For instance, you may have a desktop pc plugged into your router and also have a laptop that is wireless. Wireless networks definitely have their benefits. You can walk around your house while streaming music from your smart phone. You can sit on the couch or out on the patio while watching a movie on your laptop. However, with so many wireless devices being used at once in your home network, you may have 10+ wifi devices taking up valuable bandwidth. Wired networks offer the speed and reliability that wireless networks do not have. Wired networks are not limited by interference or building materials that can weaken wifi signals. Wired networks also offer a single dedicated high speed connection for every device in your network. Wireless devices have to share the same connection and can only “talk” to the router when other devices are not “talking”.
The best way to optimize your home network is to combine both wired and wireless technologies to make the most of your bandwidth. INFINITY HD has expert IT staff on hand to design your home network to achieve maximum speed and reliability. We recommend wiring stationary devices such as desktops and printers with an Ethernet cable, and using wifi or a wireless network for mobile devices. Having a combination of both technologies will optimize your home network to operate at top performance. If you wire the heavy bandwidth data hogs like media players and smart TVs therefore keeping them off your wireless network, your whole integrated home entertainment system will be running much faster and be more reliable. Give us a call for a free in-home consultation because this is what we do best!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: I have a wireless gateway that my internet company gave me. Can I use my own router in conjunction with this?
A: Since your wireless gateway is a router as well, this will create two routers fighting each other and cause problems. It may be best to request a modem only device from your internet service provider if you wish to use your own router. Another option is to have a technician at INFINITY HD to help you disable the routing features of your wireless gateway to allow your personal router to be used. Call us for a free in-home consultation!
Infinity HD (480) 787-0443
Q: I have a wireless router in my home, but the wifi signal seems to drop out in certain areas. What can I do to increase the wireless coverage in my home?
A: You most likely need to extend your wireless network. While there are many devices on the market that can do this such as wireless repeaters, wireless extenders, and wireless access points. INFINITY HD recommends using a wireless access point. Wireless repeaters and extenders use your existing wifi signal and rebroadcast it to in essence to extend the physical coverage of your wifi. However, if your wifi signal is weak to begin with you will not see much improvement. You may even see your wifi speed suffer. Wireless access points use a wired connection, and broadcast a fresh high-speed wireless signal which overlaps your existing wireless network. This is similar to how cell phone towers work to stream wireless signals from wired towers so you can talk on your phone while traveling. Wireless access points combine together to create a seamless network in your home. Call us for a free in-home consultation!
Infinity HD (480) 787-0443
Q: Can I use a wireless router to extend the range of my home network?
A: Under no circumstance should you use a wireless router to extend the wireless range in your home. This will create two routers fighting to manage one network. Download speeds will suffer and your network may even become unusable. You should use a wireless access point wired to your router instead. Call us for a free in-home consultation!
Infinity HD (480) 787-0443
Q: My home has what looks like large phone jacks in every room. What are they and how are they used?
A: These are called Ethernet jacks. If your home was built in the last decade there is a good chance your home was wired with either Cat5 or Cat6 cabling. These types of wires allow Ethernet connections to be distributed throughout your home. We can activate the Ethernet lines you need in your home to optimized the best configuration of your Home Entertainment System. Give us a call for a free in-home consultation!
Infinity HD (480) 787-0443
Q: My internet is slow. How can I speed it up?
A: Call Infinity HD to setup a free in-home consultation, and an experienced IT technician will help you optimize your home network to get the fastest internet speed possible.
Infinity HD (480) 787-0443
Q: If I buy a newer modem for my home network will my internet speed improve?
A: If you have Cox cable internet and your modem is a DOCSIS 2.0 modem, then yes your internet speed will be greatly improved by installing a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. Give Infinity HD a call today for assistance with this upgrade.