Are you satisfied with how your home network works today? Even if the answer is ‘yes,’ the time for upgrading it will eventually come, probably sooner than you think. Network technology improves with each generation of technology, making older products obsolete, so the benefits of upgrading can be significant. Consider these reasons why you may need to start planning for a home network upgrade.
Improve the Reliability of a Home Network
Add Wireless Capability to Home Networks
Earlier generations of home routers only supported wired Ethernet but nowadays most also support Wi-Fi wireless connections. Homeowners who haven’t yet adopted wireless are missing out on the features and convenience that a wide range of Wi-Fi enabled consumer devices now offer, such as easy sharing of printers.
Some Wi-Fi networks suffer from connectivity and performance issues due to a lack of wireless radio signal strength. A home Wi-Fi network’s signal range can be expanded by adding a second router, replacing the router with a more powerful one, or (in some cases) upgrading the router’s external antennas.
Increase Home Network Security
Old Wi-Fi devices lacked support for a basic network security technology called WPA (Wireless Protected Access). Some homeowners chose to keep their networks running with the older WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) in order to accommodate these devices. Because WPA networks offer significantly better security protection than WEP due to technical advances, upgrading is strongly advised. Some WEP devices can be enabled for WPA with a firmware upgrade; others must be replaced.
Improve the Performance of a Home Network
If a household heavily uses their Internet connection to watch video, play games or run other online apps, upgrading their Internet service to a higher tier plan can greatly improve the overall home network experience.
In some cases, though, it is the performance of local network connections within the home that become a bottleneck. For example, an 802.11g based network rated at 54 Mbps will often operate at rates of 10 Mbps or less in practice, limiting the throughput of otherwise fast Internet links. Streaming of video within a home also usually requires higher levels of performance than an 802.11g router can support, particularly when multiple devices are sharing the network. Upgrading the router to an 802.11n (Wireless N) or newer model can avoid many such performance issues.
Expanding the Size of a Home Network
As a person adds more devices to their home network, its available capacity gets stretched. Most home routers support only about four Ethernet ports, for example. Adding additional Ethernet devices requires installing either a second router or a separate network switch that fans out one of these ports to at least four additional ones.
Most wireless routers theoretically can theoretically support more than 200 connected devices, but in practice, the network becomes unusable when too many devices attempt to communicate at the same time. Adding a second router (access point) helps mitigate this issue, and it can also address situations where devices in far corners of the home (or outdoors) can’t get a strong enough signal to join.
Adding More Features to a Home Network
Few homeowners take advantage of all cool features a home network offers. Some upgrades cost substantial amounts of money in new equipment and/or service fees, while others can be set up for free or reasonably low cost. Examples of these more advanced home network features include network backup servers, home automation systems, and networked entertainment systems.