Ask These Questions Before Buying Networking Equipment

Find out what answers you need to identify the right networking products for you.

How will I use my network?

It's crucial to understand the activities that will pull bandwidth from your network. Will family members stream movies from a device like Google Chromecast or Apple TV while others are playing online games? Do multiple people in your office simultaneously transfer huge files into a cloud storage unit like the WD My Cloud? High-bandwidth use requires the faster speeds of a high-performance 802.11n wireless router.

How much area do I need to cover?

Because every wireless network has range limitations, know how far you need the signal to reliably travel. Distance is important, but so is the actual route. Expecting a signal to reach to another floor or a few rooms down the hall is reasonable. Farther than that and you'll probably need a Wi-Fi range extender. If you're trying to go really far, like out to a barn or guest house, you have two options: run a wire and set up another wireless access point in the remote location, or use two powerline networking adapters.

How many devices will share the network?

Wireless networks can accommodate multiple phones, tablets and computers at one time. But in a busy office or crowded house, you may need the additional capacity of an 802.11n unit. This is also true if you use a home automation/security system like Staples® Connect or a wireless security camera.

Where should I put my router?

The easiest place to position your router and set up your wireless network components is right where the cable or fiber enters the structure. However, if that location is in the basement, run the wire to the main floor and as close to the middle of your home or office as possible, and put the router there. This allows the best possible wireless signal range.

What effect will walls and ceilings have on my network?

Concrete, lath or even lead paint can impede the wireless signal. If you have a lot of any of these materials in your building, choose a higher-performance router, set up the network in a small zone, or investigate a Wi-Fi range extender or powerline networking adapter setup.

Can I use my DSL/cable modem and other equipment from my Internet Service Provider (ISP)?

In most cases, yes, you can use the DSL/cable modem your ISP provides. For most home and office users, this is the easiest way to set up a wireless network, because the installer does all the configuring, testing and trouble-shooting. Plus if the cable box malfunctions, the ISP will provide a replacement. Check with your ISP to see what equipment and technical support is available.

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