Computer networks for the home and small business can be built using either wired or wireless technology. Wired Ethernet has been the traditional choice in homes, but Wi-Fi and other wireless options are gaining ground fast. Both wired and wireless can claim advantages over each other; both represent viable options for home and other local area networks (LANs).
Below we compare wired and wireless networking in five key areas:
- ease of installation
- total cost
About Wired LANs
Wired LANs use Ethernet cables and network adapters. Although two computers can be directly wired to each other using an Ethernet crossover cable, wired LANs generally also require central devices like hubs, switches, or routers to accommodate more computers.
Ethernet cables must be run from each computer to another computer or to the central device. It can be time-consuming and difficult to run cables under the floor or through walls, especially when computers sit in different rooms.
Some newer homes are pre-wired with CAT5 cable, greatly simplifying the cabling process and minimizing unsightly cable runs.
Ethernet cables, hubs, and switches are very inexpensive. Some connection sharing software packages, like ICS, are free; some cost a nominal fee. Broadband routers cost more, but these are optional components of a wired LAN, and their higher cost is offset by the benefit of easier installation and built-in security features
About Wireless LANs
Popular WLAN technologies all follow one of the three main Wi-Fi communication standards. The benefits of wireless networking depend on the standard employed:
- 802.11b was the first standard to be widely used in WLANs.
- The 802.11a standard is faster but more expensive than 802.11b; 802.11a is more commonly found in business networks.
- The newest standard, 802.11g, attempts to combine the best of both 802.11a and 802.11b, though it too is more a more expensive home networking option.
Wi-Fi networks can be configured in two different ways:
- “Ad-hoc” mode allows wireless devices to communicate in peer-to-peer mode with each other.
- “Infrastructure” mode allows wireless devices to communicate with a central node that in turn can communicate with wired nodes on that LAN.