Your Home Computer Network

when you have a massive amount of gadgets then you are going to want to connect them all up to the Internet right? Home computer network technology is getting so easy that it is now a case of plug and play and you can connect mobile phones, home servers and tablet PCs to work, play and update using your home broadband or cable connection. Whether you choose to re-wire your house or use a simple wireless network is up to you; the possibilities are endless.

Computer Networks

  • Wired – using ethernet
  • Wireless – using wi-fi
  • PowerLine – or HomePlug
  • Mobile Networks  – using a mobile data dongle
  • How Not to Do It – using USB

A Simple Wired Computer Network

computer network router with ethernetThe easiest way to create a computer network is to use a router and lots of cables. All modern routers offer the chance to connect around 4 devices using ethernet cables as well as being a wireless access point.

Most Internet Service Providers (ISP) have a preferred router and for new connections it is not unusual for them to offer a free device that is both your Internet connection and can be your network hub or router. 

If your ISP is not helpful in that department or you use a simple modem that you would rather do it yourself, then the most important thing to make sure you know is what type of Internet connection you have:

  • ADSL you get your Internet from a BT style phone line – although you might not necessarily be with British Telecom – and you have to connect a filter at every telephone socket for the Internet to work most effectively.BT usually refer to their modem and router device as a Home Hub
  • Cable you get your Internet from Virgin Media through a dedicated cable connection – Currently offered only by Virgin Media, Plusnet and BT Infinity.Virgin Media usually refer to their router device as a Super Hub

If you are going to set up a home computer network using a router then make sure that you have a secure home computer network because you are making it so much easier to access your computer once you have a wireless network in your home.

Wireless Computer Network (Wi-Fi)

Laptops, tablet computers and mobile phones are designed to be portable and having a wireless network at home means you can check e-mail in bed, watch YouTube in the toilet and much more. If you are a heavy smartphone user then saving your mobile data plan and using your home Internet connection will help towards those bills.

Obviously it is not just mobile phones that benefit. Using wi-fi for your laptop means that it does not have to be connected to an ethernet cable and tablet computers use wireless connections almost as standard.

If you are going to have wireless networking at home then be sure to read up all about secure computer networking on the link above and make sure that your wi-fi is both password protected and hidden from view.

Powerline Networks

A pair of TP Link Powerline Computer Network AdaptersA PowerLine computer network makes use of your mains power cabling to transmit data between your computers rather than an Ethernet cable throughout the house and connected to a range of HomePlug adapters. PowerLine adapters come in a range of styles; for example the pair that are pictured to the left have the ability to pass power through as well as the data; useful when you have a single power point to network a back-up server or games console.

You can also get wireless PowerLine access points built-in; so you can have network access anywhere in your house where your main wireless router might not be able to reach.

PowerLine networks are almost completely safe but there is always a chance that data can leak out to neighbours on the same electricity main as you; most adapters are able to be securely paired though, which reduces the risk of anyone watching your gaming.

PowerLine and HomePlug devices are capable of up to 500mbps (or 62.5MB/s) data transfer speed, which is more than adequate for most home networks.

I use a trio of older and slower  TP Link Powerline devices in my own home.

Mobile Data Networks

The MiFi Computer Network Dongle

If you can not install a phone line or your landlord refuses you permission to have Virgin Media installed then you might need to find another way to get your Internet.

Using the mobile phone network is more expensive than the other methods but at the same time means that you do not need to drill holes in walls or fit junction boxes in the lounge. Mobile ad-hoc networks can be used to share an Internet connection, share files or other tasks that would normally need a router to act as an access point.

The problem is that unlike a router, each device has to try maintain connections with each device in the network; using more energy and offering more opportunity for snoopers or hackers to latch on to.

The big benefit is that if you have a mobile phone contract with a big data allowance; then you might be able to use your mobile phone as a portable mobile data hotspot. That means that you can take your mobile network anywhere you want, including to a hotel with an extortionate per-hour Internet charge.

If you do not have a good data plan with your mobile phone then you could use a mobile Internet dongle. I used to use a 3G portable Internet device on the 3 mobile phone network (pictured above left) but now thanks to Vodafone I have a generous 6GB 4G allowance for my BlackBerry mobile handset.

How You Can’t Network – USB

I hope that it is obvious there are a few things you might want to do; but can not when it comes to networking. If you are connecting two computers together, do not and I mean do not simply head to your local computer outlet and buy a USB cable. This will not only fry your cable, but damage your computer as well. It is entirely possible to buy specialist USB cables that can adapt the electrical aspects, but for the cost of a cheap router I wonder if it is really worth it?

Advanced Networking

If you really want to push your home computer network out across a larger area then you can even consider something called network bridges. This is where you use two or more wireless or wired routers to create multiple access points. Most consumer network routers can now be configured in this way, which involves making sure one one of your routers is attempting to set up the network connections (DHCP) and assigning local IP addresses.

An alternative to the additional wired or wireless routers is to introduce an Ethernet switch to the network. This is a slightly different device in that it does not usually interact with the outside world such as the Internet, it assigns the bandwidth of the traffic going through it differently and rather than act as a central point of contact like a router (or an ISP’s “hub”) simply acts as a traffic delivery system.

Conclusion

There are many ways of completing your home computer network and we have just touched on just some of them here today. The ideal network will have one or two of these techniques at the most, maybe an ISP’s supplied hub connected to a PowerLine network and with the other end being a wireless adapter.

It is easy to build YOUR home computer network and say “I built that!”