BASICS Step 05: Home Network
Exotic? Unusual? Have you ever bragged about, "I have a friend who has a home network!" Not today, the home network has become a ubiquitous part of our homes. "WIFI's off." has become as common as "Power's off." or "Hey, there's no water." Your smart home is dead in the water. Your phone bill starts creeping up. And the big news if that there's no TV! Your media is intimately tied to your home network. It's time to get savvy.
Before we get into the various streaming services out there you must have the ability to view these streaming service apps on your TV, PC, laptop, or phone. You need to connect the internet coming into your home to each of these internet-dependent devices.
You have decided to have the internet extended into your home. You chose Cable TV, DSL phone line, or Satellite internet service if you live in a rural area.
This cable will come into your home from the telephone pole line, underground from your street, or from your roof. No matter where it comes from you can extend it into your home to whatever location you like.
Whatever your decision, the internet is entering your house on a cable and needs to connect to a modem as its first stop. This modem will take the internet signals from the cable and convert these signals into different signals that your router wants to see.
The heart of your home network is your router. This device takes the internet coming into your house and distributes the internet to all of your devices that depend on the internet to work properly. Your computer needs the internet to surf the internet. Your TV needs the internet to bring these streaming services and their movies, and TV shows to like on your TV. You cannot create a smart home without a router. You really need a router to make your home media enjoyable. If you are happy with the router you already have, skip ahead to the next step Streaming Media Devices.
Here are some things to consider.
- Some modems come with a built-in router. This is fine for a very basic home network. Be aware that some Cable TV operators will supply you with this modem/router combination that not only serves your home network but also allows wireless access from others outside your home to use this equipment to get internet access for their Cable TV mobile phone. Theoretically, your home network remains secure. You are paying for the power for this equipment and on top of that, you are paying a monthly rental fee to use this equipment. I personally prefer owning my own router and my own modem. No rental fees and I am not subsidizing my Cable TV network. Just my view.
- The modem location is important. The modem will have small lights in front of it showing you the current status of your internet connection. The lights are on all of the time so keep that in mind when you decide where to locate your modem. Also, when the internet goes down, you will want to easily take a look at your modem lights to see if the problem is inside or outside of your home. If you put your modem in the garage, basement, or attic, you might get tired of going to check the lights.
- The modem uses a physical Ethernet cable to connect to your router. The closer you place your modem to your router, the easier it will be to run this cable.
Routers come in all sorts of flavors with all sorts of features and capabilities. They range in cost from $30 on up to $300 plus. When you choose your router, you should pick one that has these features as a minimum.
- Dual-band Wi-Fi (both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands)
- Gigabit Ethernet (best for video 1,000 Mbps)
- IPv6 IP version 6 (security and performance)
- NAT (network address translation technology for security)
- USB port (storage access)
There are additional bells and whistles available such as Guest Networks, Parental Controls, VPN support, QoS, and more. These are good to have but not absolute requirements. Most quality routers that have the features I have listed as minimum requirements have all these features. Remember, the more features, the higher the cost.
😎 WordCutter: Tip, If you are shopping in a real store, talk to the salesperson about what you want. They do this stuff every day and usually have some innovative ideas and suggestions to make you search easier. Beware of any up-sale efforts and plain hot-air. If you are on-line, check out the product reviews and "answered questions" to get an overall feel for the product.
After you buy your router you will find that the installation is not as difficult as you might have anticipated. Most manufacturers have website support that will walk you through the installation, step by step. If you do have problems, don't be bashful, call them and get some help.
😎 WordCutter: Tip - During the router installation the internet may not be available. Don't forget about using your smart phone to access the manufacturers site. Also some routers have their own application (app) that you can install on your phone to control the router.
Internet Dependent Devices
Your PC needs the internet to surf the web, to wirelessly connect all of your PC's, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. Your TV's need the internet if you want to see streaming movies and TV shows. Your "Smart Home" needs the internet. Your home security cameras, video doorbells, motion detectors and so on all need the internet.
Let's start at the beginning with the internet coming into your house. Following the diagram (below) you see the internet signal coming into your home enters a modem which in turn feeds your router. Your router, which is the hub or main component of your home network, has both Wi-Fi wireless output and wired Ethernet outputs to connect all of your devices. Your home network connects all of the internet-dependent devices in your home. Let's look at the major parts and pieces of the internet-dependent devices.
Your desktop computer is now connected to your home network with a Wi-Fi (wireless) or Ethernet (wired) connection. Your router installation instructions will detail how this works.
With the internet connected to your desktop computer you can use your web browser to go to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and all of the other streaming services available to get access to movies, TV channels, and other media. You can download their standalone applications for your desktop (or laptop). Now you can use your desktop computer to enjoy all the media available on these services.
Additionally, you can now connect your desktop in your study to your laptop in the bedroom via your wireless home network and transfer files and data between the two.
Just like your desktop TV, your smart TV can connect to your home network via Ethernet cable or wireless Wi-Fi. That's what makes it a smart TV, it has its own computer built into it. Once connected, you can download an application (app) for streaming media services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and so on to connect to these streaming services. Now your smart TV has the media (movies, channels, TV Shows) that this particular streaming service provides.
Dumb TVs are called dumb because unlike a smart TV or PC or laptop, tablet, or phone, they do not have a processor. They are not smart enough to figure out what to do with the internet signal. Don't worry, you can make a dumb TV smart by adding a streaming media device to the TV. The next step, Streaming Media Devices will explain these devices which will replace the 🚫 above and turn your dumb TV into a smart TV.
I am pretty sure that you now see the value of owning your own home network. If you are just starting to build one, go for the quality router so you will be prepared to add devices as you expand your home media or start your own smart home.
Action Item: Must have a home network.
ACTION ITEM: Pick a good router location in your home.
- Your router will be in the center of your home and property.
- It will be unobtrusive (remember, there are lights on all night long.)
- It must have access to your internet. A cable from your cable TV modem, phone modem, so the closer, the better.
- It needs A/C power.
- It is nice to have at least one PC connected to the router via CATV cable, not mandatory, but convenient.
- The higher (towards the ceiling) the better. The attic is cool if you have A/C power available.
Don't start drilling holes in your walls yet. Just get a working idea of where it will go as it all fits into the larger picture.