A good home network ensures all the computers in your home can seamlessly communicate together and with the internet without any caveats whatsoever.
Setting up a proper network ensures many things such as enhanced security, content filtering and other data management perks, along with better quality of service for things like streaming and entertainment.
However, you don't need to break the bank to set up a complete home network. Here is a guide on some basic affordable options to set up a network with extensive connectivity to connect every corner of your home.
A minimal foundational home network should consist of
As a prerequisite, make sure your home has the necessary Ethernet cabling and routing done to each of the computers or network devices you wish to connect.
These days, basic home router has all the aforementioned components combined into a single device. However, there are still certain advantages to a full home network stack with dedicated components to do each job.
But a dedicated network stack provides much more flexibility, each component can be tweaked to cater to personal home requirements.
There are many affordable options to look at for buying the bare minimum components for a basic home network. Furthermore, most of these components can be bought from simple online e-commerce websites like amazon, Newegg, microcenter etc.
When choosing the right parts for a home network, there are certain requirements to be met to have the best service experience. Choosing the right amount of bandwidth, range coverage etc. matter very much.
Routers are essentially the devices that manage how devices communicate with the internet and act as the traffic controller for network data to go from one place to another.
Most home routers are provisioned by the internet service provider but other times they provide nothing but a direct Ethernet CAT line or Modem if using fiber optic or coaxial line.
The router should be one that can handle high data throughput and have an optimal amount of processing power to be able to handle multiple users at the same time.
Again, nowadays what one considers a router is actually constituted by a router, network switch and WiFi modem. This all-in-one package creates less setup hassle, however the downside being one router won't necessarily be able to suit everyone's home network needs.
There are many kinds of routers, such as basic wired routers, wireless routers that have WiFi capability, and Mesh WiFi routers which form a WiFi mesh network so you can have seamless uninterrupted WiFi connection anywhere in your home.
If your home isn't larger than 1400-1600 Sq. Feet, a mesh network might not be necessary, and A single plain WiFi router should suffice.
The TP-Link AX1800 is a really good choice for this kind of situation, having an abundance of up-to-date features, enforcing security with VPNs, and a very capable WiFi modem makes it a really good choice for small homes.
However, if you are looking towards buying a Mesh Wireless router, consider the TP-Link Deco Mesh. It's an affordable entry into the Mesh WiFi network system, and should provide uninterrupted WiFi Access anywhere in your home.
As far as home networks go, not much can surpass a solid wired network inside your home.
It's much more capable of sustaining a solid network connection, and being much less of a hassle to setup with stationary devices like TVs, PCs, Game Consoles etc.
The downside of wired networks is the necessity of many ports to be able to connect and handle multiple devices. Hence the necessity for a network switch.
Network switches make more sense for large households or ones that utilize larger network bandwidth, for small families, a basic Ethernet Hub should suffice.
These connectivity devices can be a choke point if you buy one which can't handle much high bandwidth. If your Internet Service plan offers more than 100 Mbit/s (Million bits per second) of speed, you might want to consider picking up a device that handles 1 Gbit/s (Billion bits per second).
In computer networks, data is sent to each other in the form of "Packets".
The difference in how hubs and switches work is how the data packets are transmitted from one endpoint to the other. Hubs broadcast packets to all devices and the recipient is the one that can read the packet data, however a network switch transmits the data directly to and from the recipient, hence being able to much more efficiently handle the bandwidth between the devices.
This can have detrimental effects to how good your network experience is if you have a large number of users and bandwidth needs to be allocated effectively to each user's needs to cut down on latency.
network hubs are general purpose but network switches can be of managed and unmanaged type.
Unmanaged switches are devices that just manage the end-to-end point connections. Managed switches can allocate bandwidth much more intelligently, handle things like VLANs, prioritize Quality of service, control network access etc.
for a home network, however, an unmanaged switch should cater to the primary needs.
Depending on your needs, the TP-Link TL-SG108 and TL-SG116 are excellent choices, offering 8 and 16 Gigabit ethernet ports each.
If your home wasn't designed with cable networking in mind, and mostly relies on wireless networks, you should test out the wireless connectivity strength to check if every part of your home is optimally connected.
In any case you sense a drop in the WiFi signal strength, you could pick up a WiFi repeater.
The TP-Link AC1900 WiFi Extender is a pretty good choice for such a case, should it prevent you from upgrading to a network if you feel that is out of budget and need.
Another popular option for custom home network setups is making your own router with a small computer that has multiple network cards, such as a single board computer.
This can be a very affordable option and offers the most flexibility with many choices for hardware platforms, extensible software, etc.
If you are looking for an all-rounded setup, consider picking up an ARM based Single Board Computer like the NanoPi R6S and installing software like OpenWRT for a highly configurable smart router. Possessing dual 2.5G Ethernet ports makes it suitable for high bandwidth operations as well.
There also exists software like the pi-hole, that gives you the possibility to do things like ad-blocking, your own DNS system for faster website lookups, etc.
Alternatively, you could pick up a x86 based Single Board Computer like the Zima Board, and install a custom OS like PfSense, that offers even more features like firewalls, network filtering etc.
These devices can also be configurable to show a dashboard of network statistics for diagnosing your network status etc.
There is a vast set of guides for setting up custom router setups based on your budget needs and requirements.
Your optimum home network should constitute of a solid foundation of hardware that doesn't bottleneck your experience when utilizing high bandwidth for work or entertainment experiences like streaming, gaming etc., but also be able to provide additional features to enhance your security and prevent snooping and hacking from affecting your routine.
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