Secure Network Setup
It is important to have your network set up so that it has maximum performance. It also must be secure from hackers. We take out the confusion and set your network up for you securely. For more on networks, please read on.
What Type of Network is Better?
Here we are talking about home or small business networks, known as Local Area Networks (LANs). Is it better to have a wired network or a wireless network? In a network, the computers, laptops, gaming consoles, etc, are collectively referred to as the devices or endpoints. All network traffic goes through the router, which is like an airport’s Air Traffic Controller. Let’s explore what type of network may be best for you by looking at each type individually.
The devices in a wired network are physically connected by Ethernet cables. Their speed, also known as bandwidth, is fixed. Speed is measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). A bit is the smallest possible unit of data (usually represented by 1 or 0) and a Megabit is approximately a million of them. A Gigabit Ethernet port runs at a gigabit per second (1000 Mbps) and a Fast Ethernet port runs at 100 Mbps. If your device was built in the last 5 years, it almost certainly has a Gigabit port. Note that if you connect a Fast Ethernet port (100 Mbps) on an older, slower computer to Gigabit Ethernet port (1000 Mbps) on a router, the traffic will run only at the slower speed. The rule of thumb is that your network runs only as fast as its slowest connection.
Wireless Network (Wi-Fi)
Wireless Ethernet networks (Wi-Fi) operate according the IEEE 802.11 standard. This standard has several variants, rated according to their maximum theoretical bandwidth:
- 802.11b offers up to 11 Megabits per second (Mbps)
- 802.11a and 802.11g offer up to 54 Mbps
- 802.11n offers up to 300 Mbps
- 802.11ac offers up to 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps)
The performance of Wi-Fi networks practically never reaches these theoretical maximums. 802.11b networks for example generally operate no faster than 50% of theoretical peak, around 5.5 Mbps. Likewise, 802.11a and 802.11g generally run no faster than 20 Mbps.
Wireless Network Encryption
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
Ratified as a Wi-Fi security standard in 1999, WEP is the most widely-used wireless network security protocol, despite the fact that it has been demonstrated to be ineffective. For example, in 2005 the FBI publicly demonstrated that they could crack a WEP password in minutes using easily available software. Perhaps it is so widespread because it typically comes first in the selection of a router’s control panel list of standards to choose.
WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)
WPA, formally adopted in 2003, is the successor to WEP. Its most common variant is WPA-PSK (Pre-Shared Key). It too, although better than WEP, is vulnerable to attack.
WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2)
WPA2 superseded WPA in 2006. It is far more robust though it, like WPA, uses WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), a protocol to make it easy to link wireless devices, which is a vulnerability. This can be mitigated by disabling WPS, and, if possible, to flash the access point to a firmware version that doesn’t even support WPS.
As we can see from the foregoing, a wired network is less vulnerable to attack and, in general, runs faster than wireless. On the other hand, it requires physical cables that can be inconvenient or expensive to wire the building the network is in. A wireless network can be plenty fast enough, and can be made reasonably secure. It has the advantage that they are no cables to run and the wireless devices can be easily moved around. Note that a wireless network must use the encryption that ALL the devices on the network are capable of. If, for example, you have several computers and/or laptops that support WPA2 but a wireless printer that supports only WPA, you are constrained to set them all to WPA. You could work around it though. You could possibly connect the printer directly to a computer using a USB cable or a network cable and set the printer on the computer it is physically attached to as a shared printer for the other devices on the network.
There are a number of questions to be asked when troubleshooting a network or in fact any system.
First, narrow the scope of the problem. A network is built in layers. Run a test on the lowest layer, because if that is not working, examining the higher layers is just a waste of time. Identify the smallest number of steps to reproduce the symptom.
Try to formulate questions that can be answered yes or no. A well-formulated question can lead to the answer, or perhaps lay the foundation for a following, well-formulated question. Did this problem happen before? If it is new, what else changed?