What is a Wireless Router and Why do I need one?
Wireless router is a hardware appliance that connects to the Internet / Modem at one end (and) connects to the network devices in your home at the other end. So basically a wireless router is required for creating a small local area network (LAN) at your home and also to share the Internet connectivity among multiple devices (PC/Laptop/Smart Phone, etc). Of course you can use it to just connect one computer to the Internet and enjoy browsing Internet through Wi-Fi / Wired Ports of the Wireless Router, from your home.
On a more basic note, a router is a device that connects two different networks together and allows devices from one network to communicate with devices in the other network. So wireless routers act as a bridge between two networks (Internet & Home LAN Network) and allow devices in both the networks to communicate with each other.
How do I terminate Internet connectivity on the Wireless Router?
Most of the wireless routers come with an in-built DSL modem. So, you can terminate the phone line (perhaps with an ADSL Splitter) directly to the ‘Internet’ port of the Wireless Router. But for other type of wireless routers, Cable Modems & Satellite Modems, Modem is a separate device (provided by the Internet Service Provider) and the Internet connectivity gets terminated on the modem. You need to connect the modem to the ‘Internet’ port of the wireless router using a Cat5E/ Cat6 Cable to terminate the Internet connection on the wireless router.
How do I connect computers / other network devices to the Wireless Router?
A wireless router has wired Ethernet port(s) (Network ports) which allow you to connect a computer or multiple computers/ laptops, etc directly to the router using twisted pair Cat5E/ Cat6 Cables/ RJ-45 Jacks/ Patch Cords. Some routers have only one wired network port and hence you need to connect a network switch to this port, and then connect the network devices (PC, Laptop, etc) to the other ports of this switch. This set up is shown in the above diagram, and you can read more about network switches/ why they are required at home from this link.
However, as the name suggests, the wireless router can also connect to Wi-Fi enabled devices (PC with wireless card, Laptop with in-built Wi-Fi, Smart Phones, etc) over the air via the wireless RF medium.
What is Wi-Fi and is it secure for me to connect computers/ other devices over the Wireless Network?
Wireless Fidelity (or Wi-Fi) is a wireless network standard that allows you to connect multiple devices to a network over the wireless (RF) medium. The current (best) standard for Wi-Fi is IEEE 802.11n which allows you to connect 802.11n enabled devices with a maximum (shared) bandwidth of 450 Mbps over a distance of 100 feet (max). You can read a detailed account of Wi-Fi (Wireless) Network from this link, if you are interested.
Wireless networks can be accessed by anyone from just beyond the walls of your home if you don’t have any access restriction policy. You can restrict the wireless (and wired) network access only to certain MAC addresses (MAC addresses are the permanent addresses of your computing devices, and every computer has a unique MAC address) (or) you can implement a pass-phrase for accessing your wireless network while disallowing the SSID broadcast feature, for additional security. Its a good idea to follow WPA (or) WPA2 encryption/ security.
What are some interesting features of Wireless Routers?
* Wireless routers have inbuilt DHCP server to automatically provide IP addresses to all the devices connected to it. It also provides NAT – Network Address Translation. These two features are important for multiple computers connecting to a single Internet line (broadband) with a single (temporary) Public IP address provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP).
* Wireless routers have a basic Firewall built into them which allows them to apply basic port filtering policies & parental controls (Blocking of certain websites, time restrictions for accessing the Internet, etc).
* Some of them have a USB port where an external storage medium (like external hard disk) can be connected and shared with multiple users. With some vendors, this external drive can also be accessible from anywhere across the Internet.
* You can attach a network printer directly to one of the network ports of the wireless router so that it can be shared with all the computers connected to the wireless router network. The printer can also be connected to the Wi-Fi network, if it has a wireless adapter. If the printer has only a USB port, you can still attach it to one of the computers connected to the network and share it (using OS settings) so that others can print using that printer.
* Some wireless routers allow you to provide temporary access to the guests (for accessing Internet alone) without them having access to any of the devices connected to the internal network (LAN ports, Wi-Fi).
* In case your home is very big (or having multiple floors), you can extend the wireless network by connecting another wireless router (after disabling the DHCP server, UPnP, and other interfering features) or by connecting wireless access point(s).
What are the devices that can be connected to a Wireless Router?
Any network device that has a wired network port (RJ-45) / Is Wi-Fi enabled (has an in-built wireless adapter) can be connected to the Wireless Router. All the devices mentioned in the above diagram can connect to the wireless router via the wired port and the devices against which (Wi-Fi) is mentioned, can connect using the wireless (Wi-Fi) network as well.
You can have a look at the most popular wireless routers sold in Amazon from here. If you live in the United States, you can also buy Wireless routers online from there.
In addition to that, you can even access your local network connected devices (Like computer server / Network Attached Storage/ IP Surveillance Camera) from a remote location via the Internet if your wireless router is switched on (and) supports a feature called DDNS (Dynamic DNS). Actually service providers provide you with Dynamic DNS names and your wireless router should support the DDNS services.
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