There are two basic ways that your network can be connected to exchange information — either "wired" using Ethernet cables or "wirelessly" using radio waves, also known as "Wi-Fi". Many people use a combination of wired and wireless technology to meet all of their networking needs. Let's look at a side-by-side summary of both technologies, their pros and cons, and recommendations to help you determine which best suits your needs.
Wired networks use Ethernet cables to connect the router and Internet-capable devices. This method is simple and straightforward, typically requiring little in the way of configuration. Wired networks are also secure, reliable and fast.
Every device capable of networking has a standard or Gigabit Ethernet port, making the device ready for instant connectivity.
Wireless networks use radio waves to connect Internet-capable devices to a router that functions as a wireless access point. This wireless connection allows laptop PCs and other Wi-Fi devices (like a gaming console, printer, desktop PC with a wireless adapter, etc.) to connect to each other and the Internet from almost anywhere in your home.
To set up a wireless network, you'll need a wireless router and wireless-enabled computers. All new Dell laptops come with a wireless adapter pre-installed from the factory, and many Dell desktop PCs have wireless adapters as a configurable option.
- Can be an inexpensive networking method
- Best option if your home is already pre-wired with Ethernet cable, or for equipment that is close to the router
- Allows for faster data transfers
- More reliable, not as vulnerable to interference and fluctuations in speed as wireless
- Less vulnerable to intrusions and eavesdropping
- Access the Internet from anywhere in the house within range of the wireless router
- No need to buy extra cables
- Set up does not require additional wiring or installations
- Peripherals don’t need to be near the computer
- Lack of mobility — your devices are tethered, and you can’t move devices through the house
- Cables can be cumbersome or messy if not hidden in walls or behind baseboards
- Not always as reliable as wired networks — can suffer signal problems or speed fluctuations
- Need to enable the security features within your wireless devices
- Subject to possible radio interference
- Many high-bandwidth or constantly-on connections
- Users who enjoy high-demand applications like video streaming and online head-to-head gaming
- Homes that are already pre-wired with Ethernet cable (you can add wireless to extend your network and provide mobility)
- Equipment that is co-located in the same area
- Laptop users
- Mobile devices and other wireless devices
- Homes that are not pre-wired with Ethernet cable
|Hybrid Networks |
Many users find themselves using a combination of wired and wireless technologies to extend their networks throughout their homes. If you find you need wired connectivity in certain places where your home is not wired for it, a Powerline adapter can provide wired or near-wired speeds without having to drill holes and run cable. Powerline adapters plug into the electrical outlets closest to your router and whatever device you want to connect, and use electrical current to carry the signal.
Draw Your Own Conclusions
Wired and wireless are both great ways to network. Which works best for you comes down to your specific situation and needs. Evaluate your options and the way you and your family use the Internet, and feel confident that whichever option you choose (or whichever hybrid you design), you'll love the benefits that come with a home network.
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