The first thing you need to consider is whether wireless fits your needs, or if you should go with a wired alternative. I know, funny thing for a wireless book to even suggest, but Ethernet is worth considering for some applications. If you are planning to network just two or three computers and they are all in the same room, Ethernet may be the answer for you. In addition, if security is your main concern you may want to forego wireless altogether.
Cross ref: I discuss the security concerns particular to WLANs and ways of securing your wireless network .
Wireless is not the solution for every home network. You may be perfectly happy to hook up a few Ethernet cables and start networking. Perhaps you've purchased a house with Ethernet pre-installed in the walls (lucky you); why should you bother with wireless when the builders have done the hard part of Ethernet for you? Maybe you shouldn't. Ethernet isn't a dead end technology; it has plenty of uses and still has some advantages of its own. Some reasons to consider Ethernet are:
- Ethernet is cheaper than Wi-Fi. With Ethernet cables and equipment, you can network your computers for half the price, sometimes even less, than with Wi-Fi equipment. (That is, if you do all the wiring yourself and don't have to repair the holes you make in your walls.)
- Ethernet can be much faster than current Wi-Fi offerings.
- Obstacles like walls and ceilings do not affect Ethernet.
- Ethernet performance doesn't degrade over distance the same way Wi-Fi does.
- Ethernet is more secure than Wi-Fi.
That makes Ethernet sound good doesn't it? Well, no technology is perfect and Ethernet has its drawbacks too. Some of the reasons to consider a Wi-Fi solution are:
- Wi-Fi networks are flexible. Unlike an Ethernet network, you don't have to connect everything with a cable, so you can relocate computers and equipment with minimum hassle.
- Wi-Fi networks enable you to be mobile. If you have a laptop or PDA with a Wi-Fi connection, you can move throughout your house and remain connected as long as you can still receive the Wi-Fi signal. That's right; you can sit on the couch and watch Oprah while you sort through your e-mail.
- Wi-Fi networks are easy to expand. Unlike Ethernet, you can easily add equipment or expand your network without having to run additional network cables.
- Wi-Fi is easy to install. You don't have to run Ethernet cables through walls, attics, and crawl spaces. You don't have to deal with spiders, drywall dust, or accidental holes in walls and ceilings.
In reality, no single solution is right for every situation. Each system has its strong points, and in many cases a combination of wired and Wi-Fi may be the best way for you to go. This may be the case if you're expanding an existing Ethernet network, or if you want certain computers wired for additional security.