Komputer Klinic: 6 things to know about wireless networks - East Valley Tribune: Business

Komputer Klinic: 6 things to know about wireless networks

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Posted: Sunday, August 3, 2008 5:51 pm | Updated: 8:50 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Want to get every computer in your home on the Internet? Would you like to share music, photo or video files stored on the computers? How about stream movies from a computer to the television? Well, you can do this and a lot more with a wireless network.

Networking trips up a lot of people. That's understandable, given the acronyms and wide range of products available. But I have some tips that will clear up the confusion.

You can mix wired and wireless.

You may have an existing wired network. Or, maybe you want to use wired gear with your wireless network. You don't need to buy all-new networking gear. Mixing wireless and wired networks is easy.

You can add a wireless access point to a wired network. Just plug it into your Ethernet hub. It transmits wireless signals to laptops and other gadgets.

Most wireless routers have Ethernet ports. You can use them to connect wired gadgets.

There are different types of wireless.

You'll encounter different wireless networking standards. There's 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. There's also 802.11n, which isn't yet standardized.

The best choice is 802.11n. The Wi-Fi Alliance has started certifying 802.11n Draft 2.0 gadgets.

You'll avoid compatibility problems with certified gadgets. And they are backwards compatible with 802.11b/g gear. If possible, your gear should all be the same wireless flavor. Speed and range are limited by the weakest gadget.

Wireless speeds are faster than broadband Internet. A fast network won't help you online. But it speeds transfers within your network.

MIMO improves performance.

MIMO stands for Multiple Input/Multiple Output. MIMO allows multiple antennas to send and receive signals. MIMO improves data throughput. It can also eliminate dead spots and improve range. To see improvements with MIMO, all gadgets should support it. MIMO is at the heart of 802.11n. But other networking standards also use it.

Networks operate on different radio frequencies.

Wireless networks work on different radio frequencies. The most common is the 2.4 GHz frequency. The popularity of the 2.4 GHz band is its biggest flaw. Other things use it, too. You could encounter interference from microwaves, cordless phones and baby monitors.

For better reception, go with 5 GHz. There's less crowding on the band. But 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz gadgets can't communicate.

Opt for a dual-mode router. It can connect with gadgets on both frequencies. Make sure both frequencies operate simultaneously. That way, you'll never need to switch between bands.

Security is important.

Keep your wireless network free of unwanted guests. You don't want criminals to use it.

Encryption protects data in transit on the network. Also, it will lock out intruders.

There are different types of encryption. WPA2 is the strongest form of encryption. WPA is acceptable. WEP simply isn't safe.

Look for a router that supports WPA2. But remember, networked gadgets must also support WPA2. If you encounter problems, use WPA instead.

Networks aren't just for computers.

Wireless networks can do so much more than just connect computers. You can add security cameras and network hard drives.

Media hubs stream movies, music and photos from a PC to an entertainment center. Print servers let several computers share a printer. And you can extend your network's reach with range extenders and repeaters.

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