Having a reliable, secure, and fast connection is a necessity for any home and office network. But in today’s hybrid environment, plenty of us are working at home as well, so having a good home network setup is essential. This beginners guide to your own home network setup will give you the hints, tips, and insights you need to take full advantage of the highest speeds, reduce any buffering and dropouts, and futureproof your connection at home and in the office.
What is a home network?
A home network (sometimes known as a Local Area Network or LAN) is how your electronic items and devices connect to your broadband router. That could be printers, smart devices, games consoles, or other computers, allowing you to share files or just connect to the internet directly over a small area to access online content.
It’s normal for small home networks to rely on the inbuilt WiFi tech of each device to connect wirelessly via the main router. But if you have multiple users around the home or office connecting simultaneously, your available bandwidth is going to be severely stretched. This is why many hybrid work/home environments are opting to create their own wired home network setup.
Wired vs. wireless networks
Wireless networks are a super convenient, low-cost, and flexible way to connect devices with your router wherever you are in the house or home office. But with multiple users comes slower speeds as simultaneous gaming, streaming, downloading, or connecting to cloud-based tech, can lead to an unstable or unreliable connection.
With a hard-wired network, each device, printer, and computer connects directly to the router via an ethernet cable. While it might cost more to install your cabling, it instantly gives you a more reliable and stable connection with greater security. And you benefit from faster speeds being delivered directly to each device rather than the WiFi signal being shared and diminished.
Choosing a router
Your router is an essential part of your home network. Your internet service provider (ISP) will give you a router to get you online, but while acceptable for standard home WiFi use, it might not be up to the job of delivering the speed and security you need.
When choosing a new router, much depends on whether you want to stay with (or upgrade) your wireless WiFi network or move over to a wired home network. Here are some essential specs to keep an eye on:
Frequency bands: Dual-band routers usually offer two WiFi bands. A 2.4GHZ option gives you a wider signal range with speeds adequate for general home use, but it has to compete with other electrical devices using the same frequency. A 5GHz option will offer superior speeds with less interference and is better for devices that require a lot of bandwidth. You can assign a band to a specific action, so you can reduce the load on both channels.
Wireless Protocols: Protocols are used to send and receive data as quickly as possible to multiple devices at the same time, with the standard being 802.11ac. This allows the rate to be used on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
Ports: While you might not use them for a wireless network, LAN ethernet ports are useful in case you want to connect a wired device directly. Look for as many ports as possible that offer 100Mbps or 1000Mbps. Also, USB ports can be used to connect other devices like printers.
Speed: One of the benefits of wired networks is faster speeds. Look for routers that offer 100Mbps or 1000Mbps as standard. Going with a 1000Mbps model means you can upgrade your plan in the future without having to upgrade your router.
Ports: Ethernet ports are essential for LAN wired routers. As each device will use one port, look for models that offer multiple ports. Multiple Wide Area Network (WAN) ports are also useful if you have multiple ISPs.
Security: Security is essential to protect against outside vulnerabilities and threats. Most wired routers come with superior built-in hardware security, so ensure the security features on offer give you what you need.
Why do you need a network switch?
While a router can be used for both wireless and wired home networks, a network switch is used only for wired networks. The key difference between them, according to network giants, Cisco, is “switches allow different devices on a network to communicate, routers allow different networks to communicate.”
For general home use, a router would probably be more useful. But in a small, or home office, a network switch can connect several office peripherals, like computers, a printer, and servers, to communicate exclusively with each other.
Extending your home network range
If your home or office uses a WiFi connection, there may be ‘dead zone’ areas where the signal becomes weak, patchy, or non-existent. Similarly, it may not be possible for your wired network cables to reach everywhere. That’s when you need to extend your network.
You can extend WiFi coverage by using a Mesh WiFi system. This allows the WiFi signal to reach well beyond its normal range by using satellite hubs. Working together, they create a stronger network to reach otherwise unreachable areas of your home or office. Find out more about Mesh WiFi.
VPN your router
Installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your router, rather than on every device, can be used for extra security if you want to encrypt traffic that flows to and from your router. While it might not be necessary for every home network setup, it can be beneficial for office work.
While more advanced routers have secure VPN tech built-in, you’ll have to configure a standard router and its VPN software yourself. This can be complicated and not for the faint-hearted – but it is something Geeks On Wheels can help you with as part of our outsourced IT support.
Extra home networking tips
If you need a home network setup for your home or your home office, this guide will help you get the most out of it. But there are a few additional things you could try to help maintain network connection and speed.
- Turn off any electrical items to reduce interference and other devices to prevent bandwidth from being used unnecessarily when you need to maximise online activity.
- Invest in a faster router to futureproof yourself, paying attention to the tips above.
- Often, routers can get ‘clogged’ with data. If you’re having issues, turn it off at the wall and unplug it for 30 seconds. This can often serve as a hard reset to free things up.
Get your home network setup sorted with Geeks On Wheels
This beginners guide should give you an indication of what to focus on for your home network setup, whether for home use or home office use. But you might need some expert advice to help you learn or understand more about a specific area.
That’s what Geeks On Wheels are here for. We can help you get started with your home network setup, giving you all the practical or technical help you need, when you need it. Contact us today to get your home network setup off to the best start.