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Dated: Oct. 04, 2013
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Computer networks for home and small business can be built using either wired or wireless technology. Ethernet port is the traditional choice in homes, but Wi-Fi wireless technology is rapidly gaining importance. Wireline and wireless can claim advantages over others and both are great for home and other things such as local area networks (LAN). When it comes to dial-up connections to the Internet, the computer that hosts the modem has to run an Internet Connection Sharing or any software that is similar to it in order to share the connection amongst all other computers that are on the Local Area Network. Broadband routers allow easier sharing of a cable modem or DSL Internet connection, and they often include built-in firewall support.
Ethernet cables must be run from any computer to another computer or to the control unit. This can be time consuming and difficult, especially when computers are placed in different rooms. Some homes that are more modern are wired with CAT5 cable, which greatly simplifies the cabling process and is minimizing unsightly cable runs. After hardware installation, the remaining steps in setting up a wired or wireless LAN do not vary much. Both rely on standard Internet protocol and network operating system configuration options. Laptops and other portable devices often enjoy greater mobility in a wireless home network installation (at least as long as the battery allows it).
Ethernet cables, hubs and switches are very cheap. Some connection sharing software packages, like ICS, are free, some charge minimal costs. Broadband routers cost more, but these are optional components of a wired LAN, and their higher price is offset by the benefit of easier installation and built-in security features.
Ethernet cables, hubs and switches are extremely reliable, mainly because manufacturers are constantly improving Ethernet technology over the last few decades. Loose cables probably are the most common and annoying source of failure in networks. When installing a wired LAN or moving any of the components later, be sure to carefully check all cable connections. Broadband routers have also suffered from some problems with reliability in the past. Unlike other Ethernet equipment, these products are relatively new, multi-functional devices. Broadband routers have matured in recent years, and their reliability has improved significantly.
Wired LAN offer superior performance. Traditional Ethernet connections offer only 10 Mbps bandwidth, but 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet technology costs little more and is easily accessible. Although 100 Mbps represents a theoretical maximum performance never achieved in practice, Fast Ethernet should be sufficient for home file sharing, playing games, and high-speed Internet access for many years in the future. Wired LAN using hubs can suffer performance slowdowns if computers heavily use the network simultaneously. Use Ethernet switches instead of hubs to avoid this problem, the switch costs a little more than a hub.
For any wired LAN connected to the Internet, firewalls are the primary security consideration. Wired Ethernet hubs and switches do not support firewalls. However, products such as ZoneAlarm firewall can be installed on the computers. Broadband routers also offer firewall capability built-in devices, configurable through its software.
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