What Type Of Network Do I Need?

If you’re just getting started with setting up your own network, the seemingly endless array of possibilities and decisions to make can be daunting. We’ll help narrow down the wired and wireless networking options and streamline the decision-making process for you.

If you are just getting started with setting up your own network for either your home or business, the seemingly endless array of possibilities and decisions to make can be daunting. The good news is that actually deploying your network is often less problematic than getting an initial handle on what your network needs for operation.

We can help you narrow down the options and streamline the decision-making process for you. Let’s start with the key decision of selecting a wired versus wireless network before moving on to wireless network standard considerations and the types of equipment you ll need.

Wired vs. Wireless Networks

Wired networks offer many advantages over wireless networks, especially in terms of speed and cost, although if your home or business isn’t pre-wired with Ethernet cabling it can often end up being quite expensive to add new wiring. Wired networks also offer security advantages over wireless networks, but most of the security risks of wireless networks can be mitigated with advanced encryption and other wireless security options. The main advantage to deploying a wireless network, on the other hand, is simply the lack of needing any wiring at all.

In most cases, a combination of both wired and wireless network connections will serve you best, especially if your facility is already wired. Assuming you’ll be deploying either a wireless-only network or a network that combines wired and wireless technologies, let’s take a look at the type of wireless network that will best suit your needs.

Selecting a Wireless Network Standard

The wireless standard you select for your network will dictate the router(s) and network interface cards (NICs) you’ll need to purchase for your computers and other network resources. Each standard varies in terms of cost, speed, maximum distance and potential for interference, so you’ll want to prioritize your network needs and select the standard that will best meet both your current and future requirements. The good news is that the newer standards are often backwards-compatible with older standards, although the downside is that you won’t be able to reach maximum speeds when working in a mixed-standards mode.

Here’s a quick look at the main wireless standards in use today and their specifications:

802.11a – Expensive, with max. theoretical speed of 11 Mbps, 100 foot max. range and low risk of interference on the 5 GHz spectrum
802.11b – Inexpensive, with max. theoretical speed of 54 Mbps, 150 foot max. range and high risk of interference on the 2.4 GHz spectrum
802.11g – Moderate cost, with max. theoretical speed of 54 Mbps, 150 foot range and high risk of interference on the 2.4 GHz spectrum
802.11n – Moderate to expensive cost, with max. theoretical speed of 250+ Mbps, 250 foot max. range and moderate risk of interference on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum.

What Equipment Will I Need?

Once you’ve settled on a wireless standard you’ll want to start researching and purchasing the equipment you’ll need for your wireless and/or wired network. Your shopping list of networking essentials will include:

Network Needs Summary

Deployment of your first network doesn’t have to be an overwhelming challenge or an expensive proposition. By focusing on the basics of wired and wireless technologies and the various types of equipment needed for a network, you ll be well on your way to getting started with your very own network.

This article was last updated on February 15, 2016

Webopedia Staff
Webopedia Staff
Since 1995, more than 100 tech experts and researchers have kept Webopedia’s definitions, articles, and study guides up to date. For more information on current editorial staff, please visit our About page.

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