Always-On Networks Created with a Wireless Router
If you’re using a wireless network with Windows’ built-in Internet Connection Sharing, you’re probably quite happy with it — but there’s a problem.
The problem is this: the computer the modem is connected to needs to be turned on before any of the other computers can get Internet access! It’s alright for a while, but it gets annoying really fast. I had one of these annoying setups at home for years and the moment I upgraded to using a router was like a breath of fresh air. Now my son does not complain every time I need to reboot or do extensive maintenance periods. His machine could not care less weather my machine is active or not.
So what should you do about it? Well, a wireless router is the answer to your problem.
What is a Wireless Router?
A wireless router is basically a small, low-powered computer dedicated to nothing but providing Internet access to your wireless network. Once you’ve got a wireless router, you can connect any of the computers on your network to the Internet anytime, regardless of which other computers are switched on! Because this is the only thing the wireless routers do, they don’t usually need any configuration to get started.
Choosing a Wireless Router
When you’re choosing a wireless router, you should consider the same things as you would with any other wireless equipment: range, speed and standards. Remember, though, that speed is far more important with a router than it is with other equipment — the router might be providing Internet access to more than one computer at once, meaning that it needs to have enough speed to share between them. When it comes to standards and range, on the other hand, it is pointless to get anything better than your current wireless equipment has — you won’t see any improvement.
It’s probably worth noting here that the Linksys WRT54G router is fast becoming a standard. It’s the most popular router out there, and it’s the easiest to use out of the lot. It’s not as cheap as some of the others, though, so it’s still worth shopping around. As ever, the most important thing is to read as many reviews of what you’re buying as you can.
Installing a Wireless Router
Wireless routers are designed to work easily out of the box: in most cases, it should be a matter of plugging the router into the power supply and then connecting it to your cable, DSL or other modem. That’s it — in 99% of cases, you’re ready to start using your wireless Internet.
Sometimes, though, there might be more things you need to do. The most common problem is that your ISP uses special software to confirm who you are before giving you access to the Internet. This is called PPPoE, which stands for Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet. It’s basically a way giving you broadband access while still requiring you to enter a username and password first, and you need to go through a short process to use a PPPoE connection with a wireless router.
Most routers support PPPoE, but you’ll have to read the manual and do some fiddling. You may also have to download an update for your router’s firmware (on-board software) from its manufacturer’s website.
Problems with Wireless Routers
Wireless routers generally solve more problems than they cause — but there are still some problems that you may need to work around.
One that a lot of people run into sooner or later is that there are some programs that require a direct Internet connection for some functions. Using a wireless router instead of Internet Connecting Sharing at least lets you use these functions if you configure it, but it can be a pain. Wireless routers have built-in firewalls that only allow data through on certain ports (for example the web port, 80, and the email port, 110), while keeping all the others closed.
Although programs that require you to open ports become rarer every day, you might need to do it at some point. Your router’s manual will tell you how to do this if it comes up.
I hope you enjoy your new wireless router — I know I enjoy mine!
Information supplied and written by Lee Asher of Eclipse Domain Services
Domain Names, Hosting, Traffic and Email Solutions.