Wireless networks vs wired networks: LANs for broadband Internet sharing
Although it was once common practice, having a single computer and solitary Internet connection in the home is hardly the norm these days. Waiting in line to use the Internet connection is now almost a thing of the past (if not having enough computers isn't an issue). Of course, whether you have a wired network or a wireless local area network (WLAN), multiple users on the same Internet line put a strain on the connection’s speed, and download time will be affected.
One of the primary benefits of LANs is the ability to share files (images, documents, mp3 music files, etc) and even external hardware (printers, scanners, and so forth), which makes for a much more convenient system of home computing. However, this requires one computer to be established as a main (or “server”) computer, with other computers on the network then needing to connect to that, rather than the “router” (which cannot share files). (A “router” is a device that is plugged into the telephone socket on your wall in order to harness your Internet connection and then broadcast it to other computers). Computers can be “networked” with wires or wirelessly, so one questions remains: which way is best? A mostly wire-free home network (using a wireless-enabling router) or a cable-interconnected “plug in” type system (via router or modem)?
Differences between wired and wireless networks
There are a couple of big differences between setting up a wired network and setting up a wireless network. Wireless networks are generally accepted to be the easiest to set up, with a “network wizard” or “network assistant” instructional set-up tool found in all Macs and PCs. This guides you through the process of creating your network on the first computer gaining access; the computer essentially setting up the network. It also helps you to join a network if you are using the assistant tool on an additional computer thereafter. Wireless networks require a router for Internet access. Computers that are hardwired do not necessarily need a router for Internet access if there is not more than one computer. That considered, such a system would hardly qualify as a “network”, with only one computer connected. The point specifically is that a modem cannot be accessed wirelessly and so a router is needed for any number of computers gaining access via wireless connection, be it one or 100.
Wireless network pros
- Very convenient in the home, especially for laptops
- Easy to set up (you can get your Internet Service Provider, or “ISP”, to set it up for you if you’re having problems, for an additional fee).
- Less clutter
- Slower transfer rate
- Can ‘drop out’ occasionally
- Not as secure
Wired network pros
- Faster transfer rate
- More secure
- Requires a little knowledge to set up (but it could be argued that configuring wireless networks also requires at least a basic computer knowledge)
- Not convenient if you wish to use your laptop anywhere in the house
If you’re thinking about setting up a home network to make sharing of Internet access and files possible (or your laptop more mobile), it’s best to consider what your needs are: how many computers will need to join the network? Are they mainly laptops or desktops? Is security the top concern for you? It is hardly worth setting up a wired network if your computers are mainly laptops and you trust the security of your router. Likewise, it may not be worthwhile compromising security by setting up a wireless network if you are only using two desktop computers in the same room. Whatever your needs, networking is a hugely convenient way to facilitate multiple-user Internet and peripheral hardware device access and can help to save the most crucial of all resources: time.
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