If want to send emails from your laptop in the backyard, play games on a desktop without the need for an Ethernet cord, or make sure you don’t go over your tablet’s 4G data plan limit for the month, you need a home wireless network. By taking advantage of broadband Internet access you already pay for, and with just a few additional pieces of technology, you can create a strong, secure wireless local area network (WLAN). Here are some best-practice tips:
Tip #1. Get the Right Hardware
You don’t need much to get your WLAN up and running. First are “access points,” which link up with your existing broadband Ethernet connection. These often take the form of wireless routers, allowing multiple devices to connect to the Internet at the same time. They have connection ports at the back for your Ethernet cable and many also double as “wired” routers, allowing you to connect computers directly using cables while broadcasting a wireless signal throughout your home. If you have trouble picking up the wireless signal in the basement or far corners of your backyard, consider adding what’s known as a “signal booster” to your access point or router. This increases the range of your network and may improve overall performance (remember: a mobile speed test is ideal for testing your home network).
Also bear in mind that any device you want to connect to your home wireless network needs a wireless adapter. Tablets and most current laptops come with these adapters built in, but older model desktops may not, meaning you’ll need to either buy an adapter or wire the computer to the router.
Tip #2. Secure Setup
If not properly configured and secured, your WLAN is free for the taking, since anyone driving by with a laptop or tablet can hijack your signal and start downloading songs or movies. To secure your network, start with your router: Open up a Web browser and enter your router’s default IP address. Most use http://192.168.1.1, but check the router’s manual to make sure. Expect to see username and password boxes pop up, but don’t worry — most use “admin” for both. Again, consult your router’s documentation.
Once you have administrator access, there are two things you need to set up. First, give your home wireless network a name — also known as an SSID — which distinguishes it from other networks in the area. If a friend comes over to visit, for example, and uses her device to search for WLANs, you want to be certain which one is yours. Next, set up a password for your network using the WPA/WPA2 standard. Pick one that isn’t easily guessed and change it periodically to avoid your network being compromised. Most devices will remember the password once you enter it the first time.
The price of wireless technology has come down in recent years, as has its complexity. With the right hardware and solid understanding of the basics, you can have a secure home wireless network up and running in less than a day.