Setting Up a Home Office Wireless Network
Your home office needs to be up to date with the most current wireless equipment especially if your family has other connections though out your home.
Computer hardware devices like Belkin’s Powerline AV+ switch, left, and Netgear’s Powerline AV adapter, center, use the electrical wires within the walls of a house to transmit data. Zyxel’s combines a powerline adapter and a Wi-Fi access point.
The wireless home network that freed you from sitting in a single location to browse Web sites, download videos and make free phone calls may be getting balky. The videos pause, instant messaging sometimes disconnect in middle of a chat session, and you can’t get a connection in your basement or upstairs bedroom anymore.
Part of the problem is the popularity of the Wi-Fi network. More stations are on the home network attempting to use the same bandwidth to do different things. Fortunately, you can repair these dead zones and dropped connections, athough it may involve spending $100 or so for new equipment.
Let’s start with the issue of a weak signal that doesn't extend to your entire home. If you’re still relying on an old wireless router that uses what is called the 802.11b or 802.11g standard, you may want to get the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11n. The equipment with the “n” designation can transmit data at twice the speed of “g” routers and is more than 5 times as fast as “b” wireless routers.
For reasons unknown... the router mfg's seem intent on making the buying process confusing and difficult for the average person. There are basic things you’ll need to check including what frequency the router transmits on. The 802.11n gear can use either the 2.4GHz or the 5GHz band or both. Hardware that uses only the 2.4GHz frequency is the least expensive, $50.00 to $125.00, and it will be compatible with most of the outdated Wi-Fi equipment.
If extending the range of your signal is your goal—and, you don’t stream movies and you’re not having a problem with dropped connections —a 2.4GHz upgrade is the most cost-effective choice.
If you want to keep costs down, avoid the inexpensive so-called N150 2.4GHz products that several vendors are offering, like Belkin’s $50.00- N150 Enhanced Wireless Router or the $65.00 Linksys by Cisco WRT110 Range Plus-N Wireless Router. These products don’t use the multiple antennas that make 802.11n so fast and far-reaching.
If you want to extend range and increase speed, you will need to upgrade everything on your network to 802.11n — not just the router. That could mean a new PC (or at least a new Wi-Fi adapter for it). The good news is that most notebooks sold in the last couple of years include 802.11n Wi-Fi support built in..
If a complete network upgrade is not an option, you might want to buy "repeaters" that extend the signal of a router. Hawking Tech Wireless-G Range Extender for b and g networks costs less than $75.00. Hawking’s Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Range Extender for n networks is sold online for as little as $89.95.
Another solution to reach those dead spots in your home enlists the electrical wires in your walls to move data from the router to a device called a Wi-Fi access point. This so-called hybrid Wi-Fi powerline approach also handles multimedia streaming much better than regularr wireless alone.
If you want to create a powerline network... this is relatively easy: plug the Ethernet cable of a powerline adapter into a free port, labeled LAN, on your router. The adapter plugs directly into a wall outlet. (Don’t plug it into a surge protector.) You can then use additional adapters plugged into outlets anywhere in your home to network any PC, game machine, TV, set-top box or any other device with an Ethernet port.
But you may not want to be tethered to the wall. So to create wireless access, you can connect a Wi-Fi access point, which costs about $100, to a powerline adapter plugged into a wall outlet. (Or you could instead buy a single device that combines the powerline adapter and Wi-Fi access point, like Zyxel’s PLA-450, which costs about $100).
Other things to consider about powerline networks: Sometimes they don’t work as well as you want on older wiring, even though some syatems are set up on 100-year-old knob & tube wiring. Unfortunately, this is something you can determine only by trying out the equipment, so make sure your purchaser has a money back guarantee.
Shopping for the powerline devices can also be difficult, because there are numerous competing technologies. HomePlug AV is as fast as 802.11n wireless networks and resists interference from other electrical devices. Make sure it says HomePlug AV. Older HomePlug products are still in stores.
Several vendors sell HomePlug AV starter kits with two adapters, like Netgear’s XABV101 Powerline AV Ethernet adapter kit, which costs about $125. Belkin’s Powerline AV Plus Starter Kit , for around $130, lets you network several devices, like a TiVo and a game system, through a single outlet.
Data can go even faster with more advanced powerline products. Belkin has introduced its Gigabit Powerline HD line of adapters that advertise data transmission rates of 1,000 megabits a second. (But if you use a standard HomePlug AV adapter on even one outlet, the entire network reverts to HomePlug AV speeds. )
The Linksys WRT610 dual-band router, top, provides more bandwidth for smooth multimedia. Netgear’s MoCA adapter makes use of cable TV wiring to create a network.
If your network’s problem is dropped signals or choppy video or audio, you may be experiencing what is known as channel "overcrowding". The 2.4GHz band that older wireless networks use can support only three nonoverlapping simultaneous connections. Any more devices, and that includes smartphones, and the devices will be battling for those airwaves and knocking each other off.
If you are in an apt or condo and a close neighbor is also using a 2.4GHz network — which is very likely— then they could be knocking you off as they download a video. A 2.4GHz network is also subject to interference from microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices and phones using the same frequency.
A 802.11n Wi-Fi network transmitting on the 5GHz frequency can support a dozen nonoverlapping channels. A product like Netgear’s WNHDE111 5GHz draft-n access point, selling for about $55, gives you more capacity and lets you retain your existing 802.11b or 802.11g equipment. Just plug the access point into a LAN port on your router.
A dual-band 802.11n wireless router is the solution if you want to improve the speed and range of your network for devices like an iPhone or an older laptop using the 2.4GHz b or g standard, while also addressing overcrowding. Several vendors have dual-band routers, like the $130 Linksys WRT400N or the $180 Linksys WRT610. But make sure to find ones that support both 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequencies concurrently.
Hope this helps get your home office network set up exactly like you want it.
About The Author*
Erich V Winnecke is a mentor to online income seekers and owns the Work-At-Home-Directory.Com website... which is for people who are interested in locating a work from home income source or starting a Home Based Business.
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