Today the demand for network connectivity in the home is greater than ever. And with streaming media, online gaming, telecommuting, smart home devices, and cloud computing on the rise, the need for secure, reliable, high-performance home networks will only continue to grow.
Some homeowners believe that to turn their house into a "connected home," all they need is a wireless system. However, to accommodate the full range of today's connected devices, a connected home needs the advantages of wired and wireless connectivity.
In a wireless network, devices connect to each other and the internet via radio waves sent to a wireless router, eliminating the need for Ethernet cables. The wireless network is limited by the signal and range of the wireless router. The signal may also be impacted by architectural or structural barriers, depending on material.
Advantages of Wireless Networks
Fast and Easy Installation
Wireless systems can be easy to install: Simply hook up a wireless router, configure the settings, and connect wireless devices to the network. There's no need to run cabling through walls or outfit rooms with Ethernet jacks. If the positioning of the wireless system isn't optimal, you can simply shift it to a different room or a different part of the house, provided the new location is wired to support it. And if you decide to move, you can take your wireless system (router and devices) with you — something that's not possible with a wired system.
Unbeatable Convenience and Accessibility
The defining advantage of wireless is its convenience. With no need for Ethernet cables to connect your laptop to your printer or your tablet to the internet, it's easy to configure your network anywhere in your home — and you can alter the arrangement of your network on the fly, moving your devices from room to room, without losing connectivity.
Disadvantages of Wireless Networks
Compromising on Performance and Reliability
As the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices into homes becomes more common, Wi-Fi network bandwidth can be compromised. Running smart appliances, security devices, HVAC systems, and home automation apps, along with music and video streaming, gaming consoles, and web browsing over Wi-Fi at the same time will reduce your overall network performance. The more devices that are connected (especially during high network usage times of day) the greater the reduction in performance and reliability you'll see.
Though wireless networks have become more secure over the years, they can still be hacked and your data can be intercepted. Encryption, restricting access of remote management features, router password changes, software updates, and other measures will help keep a wireless network secure — but unfortunately these steps reduce network bandwidth and are all too often put off or forgotten.
How Does Wireless Stack Up?
Wireless is a convenient and cost-effective option for home connectivity. However, it's best to confine Wi-Fi use to tablets, laptops, and IoT smart devices. A wireless-only home network sacrifices performance, reliability, and security for a perceived increase in ease of access. In fact, wireless-only homes could see a reduction in resale value over time as buyers demand the advantages of a wired infrastructure.
In a wired network, devices use Ethernet cables to connect to each other and the internet via the network router. The distance between the devices is limited by the length of the cables.
Advantages of Wired Networks
Unbeatable Performance and Reliability
Though Wi-Fi speeds have increased over time, a wired Ethernet connection is still faster than Wi-Fi. In fact, if your home is wired with Cat 6A cable, your connection can offer a consistent speed of up to 10 Gb/s. This is ideal for anyone who wants to stream HD and especially UHD 4K video from services like Hulu or Netflix, play online games, or transfer large files. If you telecommute or run a home business, a reliable high-bandwidth network connection is a must, especially if you rely on video conferencing or access to a corporate network through VPN. A wired connection can provide the superior performance and reliability that a wireless connection can't.
Wired systems have been known to be more secure than wireless networks for years. Though improvements continue to be made, there's no substitute for the security a wired connection offers. As more and more sensitive personal data becomes integrated into IoT devices and online “life tracking” tools for health, finances, and other private information, having a secure network is crucial.
Power over Ethernet
Many networked appliances can be powered by the network cable, including wireless access points, security cameras, and LED lighting.
Disadvantages of Wired Networks
A wired system is a commitment that requires careful planning. While many people can set up a wireless network in their home quickly and easily, installing cabling for home connectivity can be far more challenging and time-consuming, and you’ll probably need the help of a professional cable installer.
Is a Wired System Right for You?
Wired connections are superior in terms of reliability and performance, especially if you're streaming video content, using the network for desktop computing, or accessing online gaming platforms. A wired network also offers the option of creating a private, high-speed LAN in your home that's ideal for home offices, file sharing, and media streaming. A home with a wired network will likely have more resale value as connected homes become the norm and network connectivity turns into a standard home utility. Having a reliable, future-proofed wired infrastructure in place will only add to the value and desirability of any home.
DECISION TIME: Wireless AND Wired
When it comes to your home, it's best to have both wireless and wired connectivity working in concert. Wireless and wired technology function effectively and efficiently together, giving you the best performance, convenience, security, and reliability for your money, both today and for years down the road.
Source: Leviton, September 19, 2017