Home networking used to be a matter of taking the phone jack out of one computer and sticking it in another. Over time, hubs and switches were made available to home consumers as prices dropped. This evolved into more elaborate router and home server setups and ultimately the wired and wireless hybrid networks found in many (if not most) homes today.
Home networking has certainly evolved. One of these evolutions is in how easy it is to configure the network through the use of tools built in to modern operating systems. In the past, having one system both see and send data to another system took some amount of time and know-how. Today, a simple wizard or guide can pretty much do everything from network discovery to multi-system file management with a few clicks.
Having a network of two or three computers and even throwing the occasional LAN party at your home was all the rage at one point. Back then, gaming on the Internet often meant having to deal with heavy lag and countless connectivity problems. Today, Internet connections commonly include home routers that connect both wirelessly and through pre-installed connections wired through the walls. It’s more difficult to find a dedicated single-system modem than it would be to connect to a network.
The speed of networks has even improved considerably. What was once a connection that topped out at 10 Mbps (less than many Internet connections today) is now one-hundred times faster. Wireless connectivity has grown from being a rarity available at prices only companies and the wealthy could afford to an expected addition to any budget router. The speed and reliability of this connection has, as with its wired counterpart, grown considerably as well.
So, what’s next in home networking? The proliferation of portable devices such as tablet computers and smartphones have increased the need for reliable and fast wireless connections at the home. Stricter bandwidth caps on mobile plans are requiring users to seek out wireless connectivity whenever possible, only cementing the importance of these kinds of networks in the home. Wireless extenders will no doubt become the norm as the importance of having a clear connection from any point will, no doubt, increase.
Streaming media devices — including ones that interface directly with home televisions — are expected to become more commonplace and may eventually replace much of what we know as standard cable television for many users today. Already, some early adopters are getting rid of their pricey television service in favor of cheaper services like Hulu and Netflix. In order for this kind of media to be transmitted and received consistently, wired or wireless N (or faster) network standards will have to be more commonly supported. Currently, many large Internet services (like AT&T U-verse) currently only offer 802.11A and 802.11G Wi-Fi connections on their included routers. You need to purchase an additional wireless router or connect in a wired capacity to achieve these speeds.
Many of these included modems are capable of only four wired ethernet connections in addition to wireless. In order for a home network to extend its wired capacity, an aftermarket switch or modem is required. As the popularity of home media servers and integrated computing devices is expected to grow over the years, so will the demand for more wired capabilities on the service providers. In any case, the average home network will no doubt require more connection ports unless wireless connectivity drastically improves.
So, how is your home network set up? Do you have a storage server, NAS, wireless base and repeater, hybrid network consisting of both wired and wireless devices, or one of any number of possible combinations you could imagine?