Home / Networking / Beginners

Combining Wired and Wireless Networks

Wireless networks fit into your home's overall network infrastructure. In some cases, a wireless network may be your only network - maybe you're in a studio apartment with a cable modem, a wireless router, two laptops, and nothing more. But as you do more and more with your networks, you find more uses for a whole-home network that includes wired (Ethernet), wireless (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth), and alternative network technologies.

All of these things are possible, and even probable. In particular, we suspect that you have some "wired" Ethernet gear on your network. Centralized devices such as media servers, NAS storage boxes, and printers sometimes just make better economic sense if they're connected with wires - you have no reason to spend extra money for wireless capabilities on devices that are going to live their entire lifespan three feet from your network's router.

Although we are wireless enthusiasts to the bitter end, we acknowledge that wired networks are cheaper, faster, and safer than wireless. That's why we are big proponents of building wired network infrastructure when you can, even if you plan on going wireless - if you're building or remodeling a house, take our advice and put in CAT-5e or CAT-6 cabling to enable Ethernet in every room.

Wired and alternative networks can also come in handy as a means of extending and improving your wireless network's coverage - sometimes the best way to get coverage in that remote room on the third floor is to just install a separate access point in that room, and the easiest way to do that is to run cabling to that location.

But don't despair if you can't run cable to remote rooms and build a wired backbone for your network. Some handy Wi-Fi devices like repeaters and bridges leverage the airwaves to extend your network further than it's ever gone before.

In this tutorial, we talk about all of the technologies and devices that let you connect different networks together - wired to wireless or even just wireless to wireless. We will also spend some time discussing how to manage the network - how to configure routers and switches, how to ensure that IP addresses work, that devices can "talk" to each other, and even how to separate parts of your network to create "public" and "private" network segments.