- 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
- USB or Ethernet?
Routing is the core of your shared network
When you set-up a shared connection you are essentially setting up an Ethernet network - wired, wireless or both - around your home and/or office, with a connection to the Internet attached to that network.
The first thing to understand is that every device on the Ethernet network can connect to any other device. If you have three computers attached to the Ethernet network then they can all connect to each other to share files, access printers or even play multi-user games.
If connected together by Ethernet cable, they are connected together through a 'switch'. If connected together by wireless Ethernet, they wirelessly connect to a local Ethernet access point. You may also have a combination of wireless and wired to form your Ethernet network. Of course, while you can now connect to all the devices on your network, you still cannot connect to the Internet! To do this you will need a router also attached to the Ethernet network. A router provides the ability to 'route' traffic between one network and another - in our case between our local Ethernet network and the Internet. Because the router is attached to the Ethernet network, all of the devices can see it. Indeed, each of the devices is configured in such a way so they know that if the user wants to access the Internet, they need to direct traffic (data) to the router. Because the router is also attached to the Internet, it will pass the traffic on from the Ethernet network out to the Internet and back again.
A router can be a dedicated hardware device with firmware (software) running, or it can be another computer with the appropriate router software running on the operating system. This buying guide deals with the former - dedicated hardware device solutions - which provide reliability, simplicity and high availability in a cost-effective package.