A few years ago building a home network was strictly for professionals and true computer geeks. The cost, the complexity and other factors made it a very rough road for anyone else.
But that has all changed. Today, the costs have come down on every component. Wireless is not much more expensive, and sometimes less, than cabled gear. A bit of Cat 5 Ethernet cable costs not much more than plain stereo equipment wire. A hub costs a few dollars. Even routers, once $200 or more are now available for little more than the cost of an ordinary switch. At the same time with broadband, speeds have increased dramatically.
Reliability has improved for both cabled and wireless networks. The latter were once just for experiments by hobbyists. A cordless phone call, a wall or just a solar flare hiccup could easily knock your network offline. Distances were limited to a few meters, making wireless networks much less attractive for networking the whole home. Now, they can cover the whole of a large, two story home with ease.
But perhaps best of all, besides the lower cost and better performance, home networking is now simpler than ever. Today’s gear comes with better instructions, ones that don’t assume you are a computer or networking expert. The software and hardware both are simpler to configure. The diagnostic tools are easier to use than in times past.
At the same time, most people have increased their basic computer knowledge by leaps and bounds. With the Internet, cell phones, iPods, iPads, and tablets being a daily part of everyone’s lives, the intimidation factor is at an all time low. Everyone today knows how to use email. Most people know what HTTP or HTTPS is, how to ping something and other things once considered esoteric. Discussing routers, IP addresses and other aspects is no longer just for wild eyed guys with glasses.
Security consciousness has been raised, too. As a result of thousands of articles on credit card or identity theft and other computer related issues, people are much better informed and more cautious. They may not follow all the standard recommendations touted by security professionals, but they’re no longer indifferent. Anyone who has ever been hit by a computer virus, which is just about everyone today, has seen first hand the need for some efforts in this area.
There are still a few minor hurdles to overcome. The biggest one is usually just absorbing a fair number of unfamiliar terms, such as protocol, NIC (Network Interface Card) and other related words. Once that wall is breached, the rest is pretty straightforward.
Even adding an Internet connection to the home network, so that it can be shared by all systems instead of just one, is very simple today. A little bit of homework, sometimes a modest amount of troubleshooting, and you’re in business. So get in gear and start hooking together those computers owned by each member of the family. You’ll find that printer sharing is easy. You’ll be able to pass files without emailing them from one system and downloading them from another. You’ll find your security enhanced. Most of all, you’ll have the same kind of fun that used to be limited to computer experts. Who wouldn’t want that?
Watch for future articles that will help you with your Home Network.