Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Is Wireless Better For Home Networking?*

This networking question was submitted by a reader recently, and I think it may be of interest to “everyone”.

Q: Paul, I am hoping for some guidance. I will soon be moving, and will have to set up a new network. I have three computers, a laser jet printer and a photo printer. My old network was wired and homenetworking worked well, but I have heard that the new wireless is faster.

Which is better these days, wired or wireless?

A: I hate ambiguous answers, but in this situation I really must answer, “that depends”. And I must also say that it really isn’t a case of one being “better” than the other.
In my experience, a “blended” network (both wired and wireless) is the most common.

Consideration #1: Mega-bits-per-second:
1) Wire “speed” is typically either 10/100, or 1,000(Gigabit).
2) Wireless “speed” is either 54 (wireless-g) or 270 (wireless-n).
… and your Internet is coming into your home at, what, 1.5? 3? 6 Mbps?
(My point here is that, as far as sharing your Internet is concerned, even a very old 10 Mbps network is “fast” enough.)

Consideration #2: Stringing cable:
Most newer homes are built with Ethernet wiring, and so your network is already there (to a large degree), but for older homes a very real concern — should you choose to go Gigabit wired — is WirelessHomeNetwork where will the wires go? How will you get them upstairs?

This is not an insurmountable issue (and, you could hire a professional) but it may be that wireless is the best for you.

General advice:
* Networking gear defaults to the speed of the slowest component.
What that means is, let’s say you go and buy a brand-new Wireless -N router (technically, a “WAP”) that runs at 270 Mbps, and the adaptor on your 2 year-old laptop is a “G”, your connection will be at G’s 54 Mbps.
And if the port on your Desktop is Gigabit, and your cable is Cat 5e or better (Gigabit capable), but there’s no Gigabit port on your router.. your LAN is running at  the slower 100 Mbps.

The trick is to make sure everything ‘matches’. For instance, in the first example (laptop), buying a Wireless-N PCMCIA card, or USB dongle, will now give you the 270 you bought the fast router for. And for the Gigabit example, a new router that has Gigabit ports will make things ‘match’ and give you a Gigabit LAN.

Last bit of advice: Buy the fastest gear you can afford. You may not get full advantage of it today, but it won’t be a bottleneck tomorrow.

Today’s free link(s): In today’s article I mentioned that there are alternatives to drilling holes in your wall/floor/ceiling, and one method is EoP (Ethernet over Power lines). This uses the electrical wires already in your home to send your 1’s and 0’s from device to device. Fellow Tech Blogger Bill Mullins has an informative article on this topic here, http://billmullins.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/easy-computer-networking-use-your-electric-wiring/

For more on understanding Gigabit Ethernet, see, Gigabit Ethernet Didn’t Make Internet Faster

* Orig post: November 16, 2008

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 28, 2009 - Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, networking, PC | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. TechPaul,

    This is a great article that anyone considering a home network should read. Good Read…

    Rick

    Like

    Comment by Ramblinrick | July 28, 2009 | Reply

    • Rick,
      You are very kind. Thank you.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | July 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. learned a thing or two here Paul.

    thanks!

    Like

    Comment by g | July 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. With internet connections reaching 15Mb and higher (I consistantly test at 30-31 down and 12 up at home) I think 100 wired and 54G wireless should be the bare minimum, but it would be almost impossible to set up a network nowadays that isn’t at least that, unless you have really old equipment!

    Like

    Comment by Dave Brooks | July 30, 2009 | Reply

    • Dave,
      Here in the Silicon Valley — birthplace of tech as we know it — I test at 2.5 Mbps. There is something fundamentally unfair that you get 30! (jealous)

      That said, you’re right. But I have only seen one instance in my career where someone had “choked” their network with an old device down to 10 Mps — they had an old 4-port hub as their ‘splitter’.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | July 30, 2009 | Reply

  4. I would say that having everything on a wireless network is not wise. As the CNNA course I took taught me, on Wireless networks, in order to avoid collision of signals(when two or more machines say something at the same time, the listener(router) can’t understand), they take turns, and these turns slow the network down. Which is why it is wiser to have the main computers on a firm network that runs full speed all the time(thanks to the buffer in the router and the switch capability they come with now).

    Like

    Comment by Kloplop321 | August 1, 2009 | Reply

    • Kloplop321,
      I agree, and that is in fact standard practice. Use Gigabit-capable wiring everywhere practical. The more machines you have, the more important this becomes.

      (There is a ‘general trend’ to all wireless, and “everywhere availability”, as well as ‘cloud computing’ — but that is a security nightmare as well as a few years off.)

      Folks, what Kloplop321 is referring to is CSMA/CD vs CSMA/CA.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 1, 2009 | Reply


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