Computer NetworksThere are two ways to connect a computer to a network: wired or wireless. Sometimes this will determine the kind of router you purchase, but fortunately today most offer both options.

A wired connection requires an Ethernet cable be run between the router and your computer. In a wireless connection, you use hardware in your computer to communicate with the router without that cable.

Both have advantages and disadvantages so to help you pick the right one for you, here are 5 things to consider when deciding on a network connection.

1. Ease of Set-Up

Wired connections are easier to set up. With most modern computers you can simply plug in the cable and get on the Net. Wireless requires configuring the router and at least one extra step on the computer’s side: searching for the correct network to connect to. If you live in an apartment building in the city and go to connect to your network, you’ll probably see a dozen or more different possibilities.

2. Reliability and Speed

Everybody who has used both wired and cordless home telephones knows how much more likely the cordless varieties are to pick up interference and experience problems of quality. The same can be true for wireless Internet. While hardware has improved over the years, other electrical devices can still potentially interfere with your Internet, in some cases causing disconnections and delays. And like cordless phones, problems increase as you get farther away from the router. There are devices to fix such problems, but they can be costly and may require some trial and error.

3. Speed

Wired is almost always faster than wireless, and never slower. This is due to the reliability issues mentioned above and to the technology itself, which simply hasn’t caught up to Ethernet-level quality.

4. Convenience

Clearly wireless is more convenient on a day-to-day basis. Once it’s been set up, you can access the Internet from any computer in the vicinity of the router. If you can run Ethernet cables throughout your house you can achieve a similar level of convenience while keeping the reliability and speed, but it’s a huge undertaking and may not even be possible if, for example, you rent an apartment.

5. Security

This is arguably the most important of these points and the one too few give much thought.

A wired network is fully contained. In order to connect to it, you must have physical access to the router. On the other hand, a wireless network is not contained. Your neighbors, people on the street, or those in the restaurant next door can all potentially find your network on their computers. There are two reasons this should concern you.

First, you don’t want people you don’t know using your Internet connection. It’ll be slower to you and any questionable actions they take online will be traced back to you, not to them.

Second, it’s not difficult for a hacker to intercept data sent through an unsecured network. All of the banking, purchasing, and communication you do online could potentially be maliciously saved to a computer. You can imagine the possibilities for identity theft, credit card fraud, and so on.


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