Thursday, December 11, 2008

Versus Week, Round IV: Wired or wireless networking for your home?

All this week, Observer columnist Langston Wertz Jr. will write about popular technology rivalries and trying to determine which is best for you. The week continues today today with a look at wired or wireless networking.

Monday: PS3 vs. Xbox 360
Tuesday: Macs vs. PC
Wednesday: DSL vs. cable internet

So you’ve got multiple computers and everyone in the family wants to get on the Internet at the same time. You need a network. But what kind?

Wireless Advantage: Portability. With the advent of Wireless-N routers, you get much faster speeds than ever before (provided your computer is new enough to have an N card built in or you’ve purchased an outboard card). Securing your network is pretty easy, and the measures should be enough to thwart any normal user from trying to access your network. And with wireless, you can get Internet access from anywhere in your home, or even in your backyard.

Wired Network Advantage: Security, security, security. And speed. Wireless networks sometimes work great, and sometimes just don’t. And if you don’t secure your network, your next-door neighbor could be downloading something using your account that you might not approve of. But wired systems can be expensive (hiring someone to run wire in your attic and crawlspace and walls), or a serious DIY job. Still, once you’re plugged in via the Ethernet cable, speeds can be blazing-fast.

Knockout Blow: Either system has its cost. Buying a new N router and new cards can set you back several hundred dollars. Wiring a system is expensive, too. But products like Netgear’s Powerline HD Plus Ethernet Adapter Kit make setting up a cheap wireless network easy. Simply plug one into an AC outlet near your router and the other near the device you wish to network and voila! – it’s connected. You can set up the device in the front or back yard, in the office or kitchen. I got speeds as fast as those I would normally get directly off my router, speeds faster than any wireless-N get-up I’ve tested.

Winner: This one’s a draw. If I were building a new home, I’d have it wired – but I’d still have a wireless router for ease of use. If I had an existing home with, say, a Wireless-G router, I’d keep it and add a Powerline adapter for places where I needed dedicated, faster connections (like a home office, or a satellite box that downloads movies). The Powerline is one of the best consumer gadgets of the past five years.

Coming up:
Friday: Satellite vs. cable.


Anonymous said...

Langston, I have a powerline and I love it. I also am loving this week of reviews. I don't always agree still these have been fun reads. Kudos. Chow

Anonymous said...

It's still a toss up depending on your goals. As most home users are primarily using a wireless connection for Internet access and possibly printing rather than a true network, wireless is fine. Security is somewhat of an issue, but you can make your network reasonably secure. When using a wireless network to surf the Internet, the speed of the router or access point is not usually a concern as you would be limited by the speed of your Internet connection (usually no more than 500k or about 1/2 a Megabyte)

Anonymous said...

I personally use a mixed environment. I have 6 devices connected to the net. 4 wired, 2 wireless. Wired is no more secure than wireless, if a machine is compromised. Once that wired machine is hacked, it is pretty easy to access the others on the network, especially if they are using Windows.

Regardless of which one you use, you need to make sure you set it up correctly. Take the time to read the manual, if you are using wireless, use MAC filtering in conjunction with WPA. Learn how to configure your router correctly to protect your wired machines. Make sure you don't but any machines in the DMZ and close unneeeded ports. Just be smart about it, and if you don't know how to, ask someone who does to help you.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Mr Wertz. I will have to try that netgera device you mention!

Anonymous said...

Langston: I've used those powerlines... they're pretty pathetically slow depending on the wiring in your house. Keep that in mind.


Anonymous said...

Langston, I'm a longtime subscriber and I don't understand all this tecchy mumbo jumbo. I remember your paper had a theme once: news you can use or something. This is truly that. You're writing so I can understand. I went out to Best Buy and bought a powerline. My husband and I need to splitour internet and our router from Time Warner wasn't working/getting it done. So we plug in the new powerlines, they're fast, they work. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

704Champ said...

Mixed environment ftw

Anonymous said...

This is the best of ur rivals week. I agree with others that a combo is needed. I may try this powerline b/c it wouldgive me some added flexibility. How's speed with those?

John said...

For most users, wireless is the wrong answer. Yes, it's easy and yes it can be cheaper. BUT, you get what you pay for.

Unless you REALLY understand how to secure your wireless network... and most users don't. You are just begging for trouble with wireless. The default settings (which most don't change) leave you wide open.

just set one up and take a browse... when you see how many of your neighbors have left theirs wide open... and then realize you might be just as open too!

Take it from a 20+ year support professional... unless you are willing and able to understand how to secure it, stick to wired.

Nickname unavailable said...

Agree, need a mix. I could never get a reliable wireless connection to my desktops. It would work for me (IT professional) and never for the wife. PC is wired, Laptops are wireless. Wii is wireless. New wireless routers come with nice wizzards to set up the security. There are fewer and fewer wide open networks in my neighborhood. Back in the day I would have been able to log into most wireless routers with the default admin password with ease.

Anonymous said...

Wireless is great and security as good as wired IF you use your router's option to only allow authorized network cards, or MAC addresses to access it. Really easy to do...
Just log in with all the computers-devices you plan to use and then log in to the router. Look at the history to get the mac addresses of your machines and select the options to only allow those devices. You can turn off all other security. Works great. No wires. Put5 a second wireless router on your second floor for optimum access. Connect it with one of the A/C wiring links.

Anonymous said...

Great information. But I'm not sure I understand if I am secure through Time Warner Wireless.