[Written by Lloyd McAllister]
Like most people these days you have high speed internet going to some modem in your home. That’s great, but we are so interconnected these days we want to be able to use it anywhere in our home.
It begs the question to Wi-Fi or not to Wi-Fi?
I will go through a few of the alternatives to Wi-Fi and hopefully help you avoid some of the frustrations and the money people waste on trying to network their homes.
I will discuss power line connection adapters, wired connections and finally Wi-Fi connections.
Power line connections – a valid solution or just a gimmick?
A power line connection is when you use 2 Ethernet over powerline adapter between two power points to create a network.
Ethernet over power adapters are devices designed to carry data over a conductor that is also designed to carry electrical power ( eg between power points in your house ).
There are some pros to using power line connections, however I recommend against it. My biggest issue with them is it will not work as well in your home as it is advertised/marketed.
They test it between two power points, in a lab, under perfect conditions. So they can legally claim it will give you up to 200mb/s.
If you are setting up a network my guess is you already have something plugged into every power point in the house and they are always sucking power. This is one big con as the speed is affected by devices being plugged and using power on the same circuit.
Another con is it also takes up power points as you have to plug it directly in. No, you can’t cheat and plug it into a power board. And if you are like me then you don’t have any spare to begin with and are actually in need of more power points.
Another con is the quality of the wiring in your home. The majority of people don’t live in a new home. If your wiring is old or the person who wired the house did a bad job it will slow down the speed of your connection.
The power points also need to be on the same electrical circuit for it to work. You could find this out by turning off all the power at the switch board. Then turn on one circuit at a time and see if you get power on both power points when only one circuit has power. This further limits your options on where you can place the adapter devices.
The only way to find out the true speeds is to buy it and test it, but who wants to spend good money on the fastest power line connection adapters only to find out they can only do 14mb/s over it. Or even worse don’t work at all.
Wired Connections – are they King?
Connecting up your whole house with Ethernet cables is what you would do in a perfect world.
It’s super-fast and reliable. You know that when you invest the money you will get what you pay for.
If you go down this route you will need to have experience running cables underneath your house, through your walls or through the roof. If you’re not comfortable doing that you can get a handyman to do it for you. However the costs significantly go up if you can’t do it yourself and it becomes less attractive.
I won’t go into too much detail here as there are plenty of tutorials online.
You would start off by going to one of the many websites where you can buy more cable than you could ever want at rock bottom prices. You then buy a Data Crimper and Stripper. You can find this online from anywhere from $15 to $65. You also need RJ45 modular plugs. These are the plastic bit at the end of the cable that plugs into your pc switch etc. For the plugs on the wall you will need Ethernet jack and wall plate for each spot and a punch-down tool. Lastly you want to get a patch panel. This goes where the switch is. Remember to make sure there are is enough ports on your patch to allocate all your Ethernet jacks. My go to site for all this would be “http://www.google.com.au”. The reason being is these things are so common you can find each item cheaper at a different site.
The last thing you need is a network switch. This is what all the cables and your modem will plug into. You will need to ensure that the number of ports on the switch is equal or greater than the ports on the patch panel.
Okay so you have bought all this stuff, now what? The first thing you need to decide is where to put the switch, or the backbone of the network as I like to call it. Because you are wiring the house it can go anywhere. My favourite solution is to put it in a cupboard somewhere in the house, but that requires you to get an electrician to install a power point in your cupboard.
Once you have picked your spot you will put in your patch panel. You will then run all the cables from the patch panel to the Ethernet jacks you install around the house. Remember to run one to a wall plug where your modem is. Don’t worry about a cable being too long. Ethernet works for up to 100meters and it will be hidden behind the walls. After you have installed each cable, test it with two computers (you could buy a tester tool to find faults easier). When you are happy it’s working, label the port at the switch and patch panel, so if you are having issues in the future you can easily identify which one it is.
When finished plug the modem and everything in and you’re done; a super-fast and connected house. You can easily upgrade the whole house to Wi-Fi by then putting Wi-Fi routers at each Ethernet wall jack.
Many of you may be renting like me and can’t just go around drilling holes in walls etc. Or you may not be comfortable doing it yourself and paying someone thousands of dollars to do it is out of your price range. So wired may be boss, but it certainly isn’t king. This leads me to the third solution Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi – your best friend who isn’t perfect?
Most service providers give you modems which are Wi-Fi routers. However these are often the cheapest Wi-Fi routers and will only work well if you are in the same room and nearby to them. I would recommend buying a router modem to replace it as it will give your family a much better experience.
One of the biggest mistake people make is thinking, “I can hide this down low/up high/behind/inside something”.
A general rule of thumb to get the most out of them, is you want to set them up at table height near the centre of your home. They work best with good line of sight. What I mean is don’t put things in front hiding them as you can block and reduce the Wi-Fi signal.
Once it’s working well then you need to find the parts of the house which are black spots (no wifi or very slow). Do you want to be able to use Wi-Fi in these parts of the house? Of course you do.
To extend your Wi-Fi you want to get Wi-Fi extender. What you want to do is with a laptop or phone slowly walk from your black spot towards your Wi-Fi. When you are getting fast speeds you expect that’s the location of where you should place a Wi-Fi extender. Why? Because if you aren’t getting fast speeds in a location then your Wi-Fi extender won’t get fast speeds and won’t be able to give fast speeds to devices connected to it.
Each time you add an extender you will lose some speed. So if you have a huge house you might have to bite the bullet and at least run one network cable to the other side of the house and have another Wi-Fi Router.
In conclusion, please don’t use powerline connections. Use wired connections wherever possible, but for the majority of people just use a good Wi-Fi router and extenders.
http://www.cnet.com, http://forums.whirlpool.net.au, Tech Life magazine, http://www.pcmag.com, www.lifehacker.com.au, www.gizmodo.com.au