Today’s consumer has two options when defining their home network needs. These options include the traditional wired option, which normally requires the use of ethernet cabling (there are some exceptions), or wireless, which depends on radio waves — better known as Wi-Fi. In days gone by, a wired system may have been preferable because it is was usually deemed faster as well as more secure in terms of others being able to hack into the system. However, while these two reasons for choosing to use a wired system may still hold true, today’s technology tends to bypass a wired world.

I wonder if any of you can imagine your life without your iPhone, Kindle, or a notebook that you can manipulate while you are on the move, be it in a plane or in a meeting. Just think of how different your life would be today if you were still dependent on receiving a call via a corded phone or getting an email lacking even the speed of DSL. Given that, it is obvious in today’s society that if one wishes to own one of the popular tablet devices such as an Apple iPad, the Barnes & Noble Nook, or Amazon Kindle Fire, that their only option is to use a wireless system.

Not that a wired network is all that tough to set up, but consider the variables involved. You connect your computer via an ethernet cable to a router before connecting the router to the Internet. Then, if you wish to add a printer, it also has to be hard-wired and it requires a connection to the router that provides a switch/hub to a wired print server.

All of these connections, plus additional ones for scanners, cameras, etc., result in clutter, especially when some of these connections require that wires be strung between rooms. To accommodate all of this clutter, some users choose to string the wire through their attics, crawlspaces, or to hide the wires behind baseboards. Back in the day, I was teaching computer classes out of my home for private clients, and chose to hide my accumulation of wiring behind the baseboards. Considering that I had set up a server and five independent computers, it was a nightmare when we needed to have the carpet replaced and had to remove all that wiring.

Get Rid of the Clutter in Your Home and Go WirelessSo what do you need to set up a wireless network?

First, and most obvious, is the need for a wireless router.

What you may not know is that, in addition to supporting a wireless connection, wireless routers may also support an ethernet connection or a USB printer connection. For connection purposes, newer laptops come with wireless adapters built into the units, while older ones provide the consumer with USB ports that can be used to add a wireless adapter. This also holds true for your desktop computer, which generally gives you the option of adding a wireless card or a USB wireless adapter.

For those of you among us who love gaming, it is important to also note that gaming consoles, some televisions, Rokus, and tablets can be configured to work on your new wireless network.

What are the benefits of a wireless network?

  • You should find that you will have Internet access from just about anywhere in your home or yard (depending on your setup).
  • You will no longer be forced to purchase expensive connection cables.
  • You will find freedom in the fact that your computers, printers, and devices no longer have to be in close proximity to one another in order to function properly.

Who would benefit most from a wireless network?

  • Those who have homes that were not pre-wired with ethernet cable.
  • Laptop users, tablet users, or users of any device equipped with wireless access.
  • Anyone who wants to eliminate the spaghetti of wiring in their home.

What are the problems with using a wireless network when compared to a wired network?

  • Wireless is less secure and requires more attention to security measures.
  • At times, you could experience slower access to Internet content.
  • Other wireless devices or routers in the area could potentially interfere with your overall experience.

What do I do if I have my office set up in an area where I can’t get a wireless signal?

To solve this problem, you may need to use a combination of wired and wireless technology. You may even have to consider adding a powerline adapter to the mix. I make this suggestion because in my home I found that this worked for us. I have a combination of wired (one printer wired to a wireless print server) and wireless to support all of the devices on my network, including a desktop system that I was required to attach to my router via a wired ethernet connection.

What is Powerline and how does it work?

Powerline comes in a kit and uses the electrical wiring in your house as part of the network. The kit itself comes with two adapters; one of these adapters is used to plug into the network, and the other can plug into the computer, printer, or other device. Once established, the network is then able to bring the two devices together, thus enabling them to create a network connection. With this connection in place, you can enjoy the use of your wired devices without the hassle of installing wiring. However, like everything in life, there is a downside to powerline: it may be slower than a standard ethernet wired network.

At this point in time, my home wireless system supports three laptop computers, one desktop computer, two Rokus, one Blu-ray player one Apple iPad, one Amazon Kindle fire, a print server for my old HP laser printer, and a color all-in-one printer. Oh, I forgot, I also have a smartphone and my Google Cr-48, which at times I connect through my home Wi-Fi. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine having all 13 of these devices wired by cables.

Comments welcome.

Chris Pirillo on networking: