The broadband Internet explosion coupled with the migration of workers to the home office has resulted in a boom for home networking. Three years ago, the only people who had networks at home were computer geeks like me. With the current demand for Internet access and a constant connection to the corporate system, however, today’s home office almost requires a network. Read on to find out about some home network products from SOHOware and 3Com and some of the basics of setting up your own wireless home network
If you’re not familiar with the concept of wireless networking, I highly recommend you first read my previous article, “Considering the jump to wireless technology? Here’s an overview .”
How wireless networking works
By implementing a home network, you can share resources (such as Internet connection, printer, files, and so on) between two or more computers. Home wireless networks operate just like their wired cousins. For example, in a wired network, if you need a resource outside of your local machine, the computer sends a request out to the network through the network interface card (NIC) installed in the computer. In a wireless network, the NIC will transmit the request via radio wave propagation to a connection device or wireless hub. The hub will then relay the request to the computer that holds the needed information. Once the information is retrieved, the process is reversed.

Why wireless?
Wireless technology provides home offices with many advantages over traditional wired networks:

  • Flexibility
  • Easily managed
  • Quickly installed
  • Mobility
  • Sound investment
  • Inexpensive

For more information, read my article on wireless networking’s many benefits over traditional wired networks.

Choosing a vendor
To make your home office wireless, you’ll need a wireless home networking vendor. The first step in choosing a vendor is to evaluate your network needs. For example, you’ll need to consider the type of computer that will be connected to the network. The NIC for a laptop is very different from the NIC for a desktop. Luckily, I have found that most vendors are more than happy to assist you in determining your network needs.

After reading several reviews, I’ve come to the conclusion that SOHOware and 3Com would be my first choices for wireless home networking vendors.

SOHOware claims to offer “the most complete line of broadband centric home and small office networking solutions available today.” It also provides free support for all of its products. SOHOware’s CableFREE Home Networking kit can set up wireless access to the Internet in your home office. CableFREE offers the following:

  • No new wires
  • 2 Mbps data rate
  • Up to 250 feet radius coverage
  • Easy installation and use

In addition, CableFREE is FCC Class B Certified and guaranteed safe for home use, and it supports Windows 95, 98, and NT 4.0.

According to 3Com, its commitment to wireless LAN technology and its ability to understand the needs of mobile workers “better than any other wireless vendor” are just some of the advantages of using the company as your wireless networking vendor. Its wireless solution, the AirConnect Wireless LAN Starter Pack, offers these features:

  • Complete standards-based interoperability
  • Easy setup with 3Com’s unique Site Survey Utility and PowerBASE-T
  • Support for SNMP
  • 3Com’s Transcend network management system, which can monitor and manage a wide variety of networking and radio variables
  • Multiple security layers, including spread spectrum signaling, access control lists, domain identification, and authentication
  • Speeds up to 11 Mbps
  • Support for up to 63 simultaneous users at distances up to 300 feet or 91 meters
  • Dynamic rate shifting to compensate for signal strength, radio-frequency interference, and the number of users

Setting up your network
No matter which vendor you choose, the installation of your home network will usually consist of the same basic steps. First, you will have to install a network interface card in each of the computers that will be part of the network. Next, the wireless hub will be deployed. This hub will need to be placed in a location that will allow it to provide adequate coverage for all devices to be connected on the network. Finally, you will need to install any software that comes with the networking product. If you intend to connect your network to the Internet via cable or DSL connection, an additional piece of equipment, called an Internet Gateway, will also be needed. Figure A shows what a completed SOHO wireless network would look like.

Figure A
This SOHO network is ready to go.

A wise investment
One of the biggest advantages of wireless is cost. Wireless equipment is an investment. When you wire a network, the money spent on cabling is often lost. You can’t pull the cable out of the wall and take it with you if you move. However, in a wireless arena, you just unplug the equipment and take it with you.

Wireless networking also provides all the benefits of traditionally wired networks and much more. Because wireless is easy and quick to install, your home network can be operational in hours. Using wireless technology also enables home office employees to share their organization’s equipment and resources that they need in order to do their jobs.

In my opinion, wireless networking isn’t just an alternative to traditional wired networks but should be the primary method of connecting your home network. I hope this article has presented enough basic information to help you “go wireless” at home.
What do you think of wireless home networking? Is it a viable alternative to traditional wired networks? What do you think of Jake’s recommendations of SOHOware and 3Com? Post a comment below or write to Jake Necessary .