In a home or office environment, sharing a single Internet connection might be advantageous, in terms of cost-cutting and efficiency. Setting up a home or small office network will also give its users the advantage of not having to spend too much on wiring, which can take time and effort. For this purpose, a wireless LAN would be the best option.
A wireless LAN is essentially a network in which several computers (and devices) share a single broadband Internet connections, usually DSL or cable. The resources on the network don’t only include printers, but also networked printers, networked fax machines, and even mobile phones.
Choosing items for a wireless LAN will take some deciding, as not all devices are made equal. Setting up might take the same steps, tough.
- Decide on the equipment that will suit your requirements. There are literally dozens of brands and models of routers to choose from. These include Linksys, D-Link, Buffalo, Netgear, and even Apple. Virtually all of these are compatible with the current 802.11g standard, so what you will have to look for is the best balance between price and performance.
- Some wireless routers support the draft “N” or the “N” specification, which is an upgraded WiFi standard that enables extended ranges and stronger signals, which overcomes the usual limitation by the “G” standard. However, older devices and computers might only support the slower “B” standard, so make sure the router you are buying is backward-compatible.
- Most routers will have at least four Ethernet ports at the rear, which are useful when you are daisy-chaining different routers for a bigger network, and if you have devices in which a wired connection will be required. Most routers will be within the $100 to $200 range, unless it has special features. For example, Apple’s Time Machine also acts as a network storage and as an automatic backup for Apple computers, so it will cost upwards of $500, depending on the capacity.
- Once you have purchased your router, you will need to set it up. First, plug in the Ethernet cable from your DSL or cable modem to the “Internet” or “Line” port on your router. Then, connect a computer directly using one of the numbered Ethernet ports at the back.
- Open a web browser and access 192.168.x.1. Replace “x” with either 0 or 1, which will depend on your router’s brand or manufacturer. This will open the setup interface.
- Consult the router’s manual to see how to work through the setup. You will usually need to supply several bits of information to connect to your ISP, such as the PPPoE username and password, DNS and the like. With some cable providers, though, these are automatically assigned and connection is plug-and-play.
- Setup your wireless network. You will need to give it a name. Then, select a level of security. Choose among WEP, WPA and WPA2. For best results, choose the highest level of security that your computers and other devices will support. For example, if one of your computers can only support WPA but not WPA2, then go for WPA.
- Choose a secure passphrase. If it’s difficult to memorize, then write it down or save it on a text file, so you can easily connect computers as you add them. For added security, you can also activate MAC address filtering, but this will make it difficult to add new devices to the network without knowing their MAC address.
- Save your settings and restart the router.
Your router should already be working at this point. Connect each member of the network to the router using the passphrase. Test if the Internet connection is properly working.