“Over the last few years, home networks have become an essential part of every A/V entertainment system. The rapid increase in popularity of streaming video applications such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and the increasing quality of these services, have added a heavy load to your home network. Additionally, many families have multiple smartphones, tablets, and other components which are used to stream music, TV, and movies over the home’s wireless network. Indeed, Internet access is considered an essential service by most, like water and heat. So, how do all of these things work within the home?
There are four main components to most home networks – modem, router, switch, and wireless access point – detailed below:
- The modem is a small device which connects your home to the Internet and the outside world. Typically rented from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as Comcast or CenturyLink (in the Denver metro area). You will only have one modem per home, in most cases.
- The router is another small device which connects to the modem, and translates the Internet from the outside world to the many components within your home that use Internet services, and manages all of those component connections too. You will only have one router per home, in most cases.
- A switch is the means to share Internet and inter-device connections within the home from a single router – essentially a “splitter” for the network. Note that multiple switches may be deployed in a home, to share wired connections with many components. Wired network connections are the most reliable, and the fastest option, if the component has this capability.
- A wireless access point is a device that translates the wired network to wireless, for components which can use a wireless connection. Some components such as smartphones and tablets can only use a wireless connection, so reliability for this system is essential. Note that multiple wireless access points (WAPs) may be required to cover a larger home with good wireless strength and speed.
Chances are that you might be using an “all-in-one” gateway device from Comcast or CenturyLink which combines all four functions into one unit. Xcite AV does not recommend relying on this one device to do all four functions, as they have proven to be unreliable and slow, especially for streaming TV and movies over wireless connections. The best plan is to use the gateway device only as a modem, and then add a better quality higher-performance router, switch(es), and wireless access point(s) to manage everything within the home. This plan will provide the best speed and reliability to all of your network-connected components now and into the future.”