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A personal network is one of the most important elements managing your computing experience. A network connects you to your media, to games, to printers, and more. This guide will outline the options that are available to you that will help you connect your networked components together to create an intelligent, useful home network.
The Basics:Most personal networks are created to network home PCs and laptops in order to share files and an internet connection. A high speed internet connection is sold separately and will generally require a modem that is either purchased or rented from the internet provider.
The Router The router is the heart of your home network. It's the device that shares your internet access and lets all of the devices on your network see each other and share files. Routers will generally feature 3 or 4 wired ports (if you're going to be doing a lot of video streaming over your wired network look for a gigabit router - indicated by the speed 10/100/1000). Routers with wireless functions offer a great deal of choice. Wireless G routers offer compatibility with older devices, while wireless N routers offer the best speed and range. For the best of both worlds you can look to a dual band router. Dual band routers have two radios, enabling older G devices and newer N devices to connect at the highest speed possible with the least interference.
PCI and USB Adapters Most new computers will come with ethernet built in, however if you need to add a wired or wireless solution to your computer, a PCI card will add that functionality for a desktop computer or a USB based solution can solve the problem for a desktop or laptop.
Print Servers If you've got a printer that doesn't have built in network or wireless connectivity, a print server is a great way to add a printer or multi-function to your network for use with more than one computer on your machine.
Dual Band RoutersAs mentioned above, dual band routers are the best solution for networks with a mixture of older and newer devices. Featuring two radios, dual band routers can connect a range of old and newer devices at the highest speed for both. In the event that you phase out older devices, dual band routers can also be used to create public and private networks with the same router - an incredibly useful feature if you have certain devices that you don't want behind network security.
Automated Network Setup / UPnPMany routers now offer an automated setup utility that makes network creation easier. These utilities (compatible with both Mac and PC) enable almost input free setup. This eliminates the need to write down or create custom settings in order to get your computers and devices to see each other to share files. UPnP is an acronym for Universal Plug and Play. This protocol doesn't require a utility as devices that support it contain the information that's needed to set them up internally. This is referred to as a Zeroconf protocol as it requires zero configuration. Handy!
ExtrasOn-board Backup Some routers offer the ability to create backups with built-in hard drives. These units offer utilities or may be compatible operating system utilities (like Mac OS X's Time Machine) to create regular backups over the network to assist in file and disaster recovery.
USB ConnectionsModern routers may offer a USB link wherein an external USB hard drive (or drives) can be connected for ultra-simple file sharing. Simply connect the drive and all clients on the network can be granted access to the files on it.
AccessoriesMedia Hubs Sharing files from one computer to the next is a great way to enjoy your media, but a media hub makes it even simpler. A media hub can act as a central repository for your pictures, video, and music, making it a snap to stream them to any PC on the network. Instead of keeping local copies of files or using CPU overhead and taxing a machine that's hosting them, you can place your files on a dedicated media hub in order to make them available to everyone on the network easily.
Range Extending AntennasIf you're finding that your router doesn't quite have the range you're looking for you can investigate the option of adding a range extending antenna in order to boost the signal to clients that need it.
The most important element of building your home network is ensuring you have components that are compatible with one another. Dual band routers that support UPnP are the easiest to work with as they make it simple to connect old and new devices to your network and configure them automatically. This guide has given you the insight you need to help decide which components you want for your network. Evaluate your needs and pick the parts that work for you.
The Future Shop DifferenceWith over 140 stores across Canada and a vast selection of networking components available online, Future Shop offers one of the best networking component shopping experiences in the country. For those needing assistance getting their home network installed and configured correctly, Future Shop’s ConnectPro Experts offer a full range of services to suit your needs. Our satisfaction guarantee ensures that you'll get the right components for the job, and our lowest price guarantee means you'll pay less than anywhere else. Check out our networking section online at futureshop.ca or head into any Future Shop location across Canada and speak to a Product Expert to help you select your new home networking devices.
Need a hand? We've provided a handy checklist below that can help you decide which networking products will fulfill your needs. Print it, fill it out, bring it into one of our stores, and speak with one of our Product Experts for more information.
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