- Fast connections are worth sharing
- Routing is the core of your shared network
- Dedicated devices - the alternatives
- What are the individual functions that make up the device?
- Buying a modem/router/switch
- Buying a device with an Ethernet switch
- Buying a device with wireless networking
- What about security?
- DIY vs ISP?
- Summary of features
What is ADSL: ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, which is a method for transmitting high speed digital information over regular phone lines. It is capable of download speeds up to 9MBps and upload speeds of up to 800Kbps. Most home ADSL services offer 256Kbps, 512Kbps or 1500Kbps services, which is usually a measure of their download speed. Previously, the limitations of the equipment in telephone exchanges meant that these were the highest speeds available, recent upgrades have allowed much higher speeds to be offered. Occasionally you will see broadband plans listed with two numbers, like 1500/256, which indicates a 1500Kbps downlink (for downloading) and a 256Kbps uplink (for uploading).
ADSL2 and ADSL2+: ADSL2 is a more efficient technology than ADSL, permitting downstream speeds of up to 12Mbps using the same telephone lines. It also extends the reach of ADSL services by about 250 metres. ADSL2 adds voice channel capabilities as well as an additional 256Kbps upstream capability, making it a viable candidate for digital telephone services. The newer ADSL2+ standard effectively doubles the frequency of downstream data from 1.1MHz to 2.2MHz, making it capable of speeds up to 25Mbps and upload speeds of 1024Kbps over phone lines of up to 2km in length. Actual ADSL2+ speeds can vary depending on your distance from the telephone exchange and a number of other factors including network configuration and line quality (to name a few).
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USB or Ethernet?
Whether you have a separate modem and router or a single device that combines the two, there is still the question of how to connect everything to your computers. The modem will connect to the phone line and, if it is a separate device, it will also connect to the router using a standard network cable. If the router has an integrated hub, each computer you want to access the network and/or Internet will plug directly into the router using network cables. Otherwise, the router will connect to a hub (or switch) with a network cable. This configuration uses the router's Ethernet interface to share the Internet connection, and all broadband routers will support this technique. When connected in this way, the router is configured using a Web browser from any computer connected to it.
If you don't have a network card installed in your PC, some ADSL modems allow you to connect to the Internet via a USB port. However, keep in mind that if you use USB you will need to position your computer near the telephone outlet as USB cables aren't terribly long. A USB interface is a good place to start if you are new to networking, and it is an easily configured safety net to fall back on if your computers develop networking problems or can't connect via the Ethernet port. Also, if you wish to add computers to your network in the future, it is as easy as connecting them to the router, hub or switch via Ethernet cables or wireless cards. Most USB modems also support Ethernet capabilities so purchasing a modem that supports USB makes it versatile in the long run.