Wi-Fi is a Wi-Fi Alliance standard. WiFi is used to refer to generic wireless.
Networking is Connecting Computers Together
In simple terms, networking is connecting two or more computers or devices together to share files, high-speed Internet access or resources like printers and scanners.
Creating networks has become easier and less expensive. Most high-speed ISPs provide some sort of a router-modem combination.
The process involves three basic steps:
- Configure your router;
- Secure your router; and
- Add other computers and devices.
However, before you begin, lets go over some basic preparations. You'll want to determine what you need your network to do so you plan for those requirements and any future expansion.
Wired or Wireless?
Most current routers provide for two types of connection to the network:
- Wired (LANs) using Cat 5 (or faster Cat 6) Ethernet cables. Routers usually provide for up to four wired connections.
- Wireless (WLANs) using radio signals that carry the information between the various devices on the network. Wireless networks allow you to connect dozens of devices.
The most secure method on connecting is by using network cables. However, unless you're able to run these cables throughout your home or office, the number of devices that can connect this way is limited.
WiFi Expands Accessibility
Wireless networks are easier to set up, but there may be limitations because of the walls or other interference between the router and certain areas in your home or office. There are also special WiFi security concerns.
Tablets, smartphones, printers, TVs, virtual assistants (e.g., Google Home) and many other devices are now capable of connecting with wireless technology. You can add this capability to some devices with third-party hardware.
Connecting Through Electrical Wires
Although there has been a lot of progress in wireless technology using repeaters and other options, some locations are difficult to reach.
Special networking hardware designed to connect through the electrical wiring in the building can bring connectivity where you have difficulty running either network cabling or getting a reliable wireless signal.
The main issue with all Powerline network devices having the same out-of-the-box default network name is when you live in an apartment, dorm, or other situation where the electrical wiring is shared. If two or more different apartments start using Powerline networking products with the same network name, then they are essentially sharing their network with each other, which could lead to all manner of security and privacy issues.
Buying a Router
While the router supplied by your ISP might work well at home, if you're a business or are having difficulties with your network you can try these resources:
- Choosing the best wireless router.
- Best WiFi routers for a large house or office.
- The 8 Best WiFi Extenders.
How your Internet comes into your home or office as well as what is supplied can differ with your ISP. It is mostly Shaw or Telus in Victoria:
The following sites have more information about planning and setting up a network:
- How home networking works on Howstuffworks.
- How to set up and optimize your wireless router from PCMag.
- The ultimate guide to home networking from PCWorld.
- Home Network on Wikipedia.
Configure Your Router
This is a very brief overview of the connection process. You will need to carefully follow the instructions that came with your router which may differ from this generic guide. Most routers come with setup instructions.
Your router may be configured as a separate high-speed modem connected to an external router or as an all-in-one combined modem/router supplied by your ISP (most common). See Routers: Your Hardware Firewall for special instructions on securing your router.
Don't Use Wireless to Configure a Router
Always configure a router using a wired connection. A wireless connection risks losing the signal when the router reboots during setup.
Connect to the router directly with an Ethernet cable until the setup and configuration is completed. Once complete, you can return to a wireless connection if you wish.
The first step is to setup and configure your router.
Follow these steps in order (unless directed differently by your router's installation guide) so that any problems can be rectified before you move on:
- Make sure the high-speed connection is working on the computer connected to the modem or router.
- You don't want to complicate things by tackling the rest of the network before determining that your Internet connection is active.
- Make a note of the items that your router installation guide suggests you record.
- You will need this later to configure the router.
- Install the router's software when setup tells you to.
- This software makes changes to your computer. Be sure to include any recovery options.
- Advanced users may prefer to use their operating system's configuration tools.
- Remove the network cable from the back of the computer and plug it into the WAN port on the back of the router.
- Connect a network cable from one of the numbered ports to the back of the computer.
- It does not matter which numbered port but I tend to use port 1 for my main computer.
- Do not use an “uplink” port.
- Set your router up using the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- This is where you will need the settings you recorded earlier.
- This sometimes requires rebooting the modem, router and computer.
- Check your Internet connection on your computer.
If the computer can't access the Internet, you'll need to figure out where you went wrong before continuing.
Secure Your Router
Once you have your router working, log into the router software interface and ensure that you've secured your router from being hacked. Again, use a network cable to perform these options.
The configuration varies by manufacturer, so have a look at your router's manual or help menu.
Configuring the security settings is usually achieved by entering a local IP address (e.g., https://192.168.1.1) intro your browser's address bar.
- Replace the default router login password with a unique complex password and optimally the login username as well.
- Disable any remote access to your router (check your router's documentation to locate and configure this setting).
- Replace the default WiFi security and passwords with the best security your device allows.
Don't Configure Routers Online
Some router manufacturers (such as Netgear) don't provide a local IP address. Instead, they have moved the configuration of their routers into the cloud:
Type http://www.routerlogin.net in the address field of your browser, and then click Enter.
Configuring routers on the Internet makes it easier for your router to be hacked, especially if https is disabled.
Try These Local Addresses
First, try entering 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 into your browser's address bar.
If these don't work, search for documentation for your particular brand and model of router. Often you can find answers in online forums.
Update Your Router Firmware
Just like other hardware and software, it is very important that you update your router hardware and software when possible, replacing it when it is no longer secure.
Ensure your router's firmware is always up to date.
Replace Aging Routers
If you can't update your router and it uses wireless G (or older) or is vulnerable to the KRACK security flaw replace your router.
If your router is provided by your ISP, you might talk to them about upgrading. Alternatively, disable WiFi and use only wired connections.
KRACK WiFi Security Flaw
A WiFi critical flaw in the WPA2 security standard, KRACK, affected virtually all devices. Windows and Apple devices are only partially affected and currently supported versions have been patched with updates.
WiFi security protects your network from being attacked or used by unauthorized devices to access the Internet.
Don't compromise your WiFi security by allowing outside users (guests) to use your primary network. Instead, set up a guest WiFi network so that guests can access to the Internet but remain isolated from the main network.
Wired Network More Secure
Wired networks are more secure because they don't transmit information except to the connected devices via the network cables.
However, WiFi is more convenient and more practical for most home users.
I strongly recommend that you disable WPS.
WPS is “push-button” technology that makes configuring devices on a wireless network easier. Easier, but a serious security risk.
Secure Your Wireless Network
It is very important that you secure your wireless network — you do not want your network or Internet service accessed by others. It is relatively easy using the tools provided by the manufacturers of wireless equipment.
Since no encryption is totally secure, use a wired network if you are concerned about confidential information. Be sure to disable the wireless capability on the router.
A wireless key provides security for your wireless network just like a password provides security for your email account:
- The WiFi SSID is like your email address.
- The WiFi security key is like your email password.
In both cases, this information is public.
There are several protocols used to secure wireless networks. The most common are (in order of increasing security):
- WPA; and
WEP Not Recommended
WEP is an obsolete encryption method.
- WEP security uses only the digits 0–9 combined with letters A–F and sends a portion of the WEP security key each with each transmission so it is less secure than more recent encryption methods.
- The longer the key, the harder it is to break, and is therefore more secure. Use 128-bit encryption where possible and always mix letters and numbers in a random order.
WPA was designed to overcome all know security issues with WEP. WPA utilizes 128-bit encryption keys and dynamic session keys to ensure the wireless network's privacy and security. There are two general variations:
- WPA-Personal uses a pass-phrase or pre-shared key (sometimes referred to as personal mode) and is used for home and small office networks. This is sometimes referred to as WPA-PSK.
- WPA-Enterprise verifies network users through an authentication server and is used in large networks.
WPA2 uses an AES encryption algorithm for increased security. Most current routers support some form of WPA. WPA2-Personal and WPA2-Enterprise versions operate in the same manner as their WPA counterparts.
Check out these sites for more information about wireless security:
- The Wi-Fi Alliance has lots of resources on wireless networking.
- How to set up a wireless network (WiFi) connection.
- How to connect to WiFi in Windows 10.
Adding Other Computers
Once you are sure the main computer is working correctly and the network is secured, you can connect the other computers and devices to your network — one at time.
- Add the other computers that will be connected using a network cable into one of the remaining numbered plugs. Be sure to check their connectivity as you go. You may need to reboot each computer so that it sees the new network address or change the IP address.
- Add the wireless computers one at a time. You will need to configure each computer's wireless receiver according to the instructions you got with the unit.
- Add any other wireless devices like printers, scanners, smart phones, tablets, etc. one at a time. Use the instructions and/or software that came with these devices. Once connected most will prompt you to verify access by printing or scanning a test page. Do this on your primary computer first, then verify the capability where remote printing is enabled elsewhere on the network.
See sharing files between computers to learn how to share files between computers on your network.
Guest WiFi Accounts
When you add guest users to your network, you want to separate visitors' access from the rest of your network.
This protects your network from any threats from unknown devices and prevents access to any file sharing protocols.
Protects Your WiFi Password
You also don't compromise your WiFi password.
Many routers offer dual-band access (two bands, one at a higher speed). Each is protected by a separate password and runs its own network.
Give priority to your own requirements by using the higher bandwidth WiFi and the wired network for the internal network. The lower bandwidth WiFi will provide access to visitors and unknown devices without compromising performance on your in-house network.