Wan Routers

Written by Amy Hunter
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When you're networking computers, you have a couple of options. The most common is using Ethernet hubs and running wires through your home or office. Increasingly, however, people are turning to wireless (or WiFi) networks. While there are some shortcomings (WiFi is not yet as fast as wired networks), there's one big plus: convenience. When you go wireless, you're connected to the network wherever you are within range.

WiFi--also known as 802.11 networking--uses radio signals to connect the various computers on your network. The technology that allows this is basically the same as walkie-talkies. With a walkie-talkie, you speak into your handset, and your voice is transmitted via radio waves to the other handset. The antenna on the partnering unit picks up the signal, and your voice comes out the speaker. The basic principle is the same with WiFi.

So when you set up a WiFi network (this is also known as a wireless area network, or WAN), you equip every computer on the network with the means to receive the signals. This takes the form or a wireless card (many new laptop computers come with built-in wireless capability; if not, you can buy a card for about $50). This wireless card allows your computer both to receive and send the signals necessary to maintain your connection.

Of course, whether you're setting this up in your home or in your business, you'll need a wireless hub or router to act as the central distribution center for the network. You'll plug your internet connection into your wireless router, and this device works the same as a wired router, minus the cables. You'll want to make sure your network is secure, so your neighbors don't poach your signal. However, most companies that sell routers anticipate this possibility, so the means to protect your network (and the information on the computers that comprise the network) should be included with your router.

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