If you are like most people you have a variety of devices in your home that you want to connect to the internet and also connect to each other. There are many different methods for doing this from WiFi to Fiber Optic Devices but it can get a little confusing when you are trying to layout your network in the most efficient way.
In this How To we will talk about the best practices of laying out your network to provide good coverage for all your devices and how you can do it in the most cost effective way. The most important part about building a network is the ability to connect all your devices and to plan for expansion so you can connect new devices as you obtain them. With a little planing you can make sure that your entire network runs fast and that it runs without much management.
Whole Home WiFi Networks
If you live in an apartment then your best bet is going to be a fast WiFi Network that can serve your devices without stringing a lot of wire throughout your place. In contrast there are some big advantages of Wired Networks that we will go over later but today you should expect to have at least some WiFi access in your home so you can connect your Cell Phones for internet access.
When choosing a WiFi Router you want to go with the fastest device that is available but also in your budget. I have seen a few different generations of WiFi Routers and although most devices are backwards compatible with these protocols each new standard brings large increases in speed and quality.
However it is not always necessary to get the newest and most expensive WiFi Router. If you purchase a new device you can expect to pay well over $100 and possibly in to a few hundred dollars. This is really not reasonable unless you are serving a required need. If you are running a restaurant and have public access WiFi then the fastest device will allow more users to share the internet and new standards will provide more stable connections. If you are supporting a laptop, phone and television box in your apartment you probably don’t need the most advanced device and can save some money.
If you are setting up a large home or providing WiFi outside of your main house to a garage or pool area then you will want to use a WiFi Repeater. This device can extend your network to areas outside of a single device’s reach. You can also setup more than one WiFi router on a wired network to get to areas like your basement if you have poor coverage there you can plug a WiFi Router into your Wired network and you will have a new subnet that will be routed to other local devices and to the Internet.
WiFi Routers Connected To Your Cable Modem As A Primary Home Router
When your ISP such a cable company sets up your service they will provide a Cable Modem or FIOS Device that will give you one IP but if you want to connect a home full of devices each of of those devices need an IP Address. IP Addresses are like Street Addresses for your Mail. It tells the world where you are and how to get to you. You can think of the Router like dropping mail off at an Apartment Building. Everyone lives at the same Address but the mail still gets there because each apartment has their own number.
Each Router can theoretically give out hundreds of local IP addresses so you can connect hundreds of devices or use the IP addresses for whatever you want like a server. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work and some routers are limited to 32, 64 or 128 devices in total. The number will change based on the router you purchase but if you need to setup a network for a large business they do have enterprise routers which will give you all you need.
Also the limit that a home router has will be based on network traffic. At the top range you may find that you can not connect more devices because you just don’t have the speed required to support them.
Network Switches To Provide Many Local Ports
You will notice on the back of your Router you probably only have 4 ports. This does not limit you to 4 wired devices because each one of those wired ports can be connected to a Network Switch that can have 24 or maybe more wired ethernet ports.
Each port on your switch can run to an individual device or if you connect a primary switch to your router and then run wires from your primary switch to each of your rooms you can place a switch just for that room on the wall jack connection and serve many devices in that room.
Pulling All Of This Together Into A Network Layout Plan
Now that we know that Cable Modems provide the main connection of your house to the internet and that Routers are used to setup a local network of IP addresses that will feed through your cable modem and that switches and repeaters can extend your network to allow you to connect many wired and wireless devices lets put this into a network plan.
First you should decide where your equipment will reside. Normally you want it to be in a place that is relatively accessible in case you need to service it but you also want it out of the way because you really won’t need to mess with it once you have it up and running and working correctly.
All of your devices will need electricity too so this might mean running a UPS Backup Device straight from a wall outlet or running your own wire to make an outlet just for your network equipment.
You also want this place to be dry and cool so never put network equipment in an attic or in a basement with a moisture problem.
First you will connect your Cable Modem to your Cable Company’s Coax Cable or to the Network Access Point of your Phone Company. FIOS users may have an ethernet port and in that case you can move on to the next step.
Second you want to connect your Router. Your Router will act as a go between from your internet and your home so make sure that you understand how to secure it and remotely manage it from a browser when you are at home. Never allow management access from an internet location.
Your Router can then feed your Primary Network Switch and the number of ports you have on the primary switch should be enough to cover all of your wired rooms. If you have 5 wall jacks then get an 8 port switch. The switch can be managed or unmanaged this will depend on your needs to control your local network.
Now with wires from your switch to each of your rooms you will have an outlet in the room that looks like a Phone Jack. You can connect one device directly such as a Television or Television Box or you can install a local network switch to provide more ethernet ports in that room.
Cable Modem to the Router and then Router to the Primary Switch and then in rooms that need more ports add a local switch right to the wall jack and connect your devices to it.
For WiFi your router that is connected to your cable modem or FIOS ethernet port can allow WiFi connections. If you need better reception in different parts of the house especially if the router is in your basement then you can add a router or a repeater in a different part of the home either over WiFi or through a Wired Connection. A Wireless WiFi Repeater will have to be placed so it can send and receive from your primary router and also reach the rest of your house.
Another option is to purchase a WiFi Router that has removable external antennas and then purchase a 30 foot or longer antenna cable that will allow you to run the wire from your router up to the next level of your home and that antenna should be able to pickup signals for the rest of your house.
Building a network is not that difficult and the companies that sell these devices can be of help with how to documents, technical information about their products and service people that can take a direct question. Many also have online forms to ask questions but often you receive answers from other users in those forms so remember you want real answers not what someone thinks maybe might work from someone who doesn’t work for the company.
I find that using a switch in every room that has more than one wired device is a better solution than using WiFi to connect computers and other devices with wired ports. Always opt for Wired because it will give you better data transfer and it is more secure.
For instance if you have a home wired network you can completely detach your WiFi Network from it and then your friends can access your wifi but not your computer’s network.
Also by using Gigabyte Switches for your local devices your transfers of Movies from a Server to your Television or Printing to a downstairs printer or playing games on your local network will be so much faster and secure.
Always use good cable and equipment but you don’t have to have the most expensive stuff on the market to have a great solution for your home.