Understanding Tech Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Wireless Router
Remember when you had to make the big decision between keeping the line clear for a phone call or checking your email? What about the fear of getting disconnected when someone else in the house accidentally picked up the receiver? Thankfully, internet connectivity in most homes has far surpassed its origins, and you no longer have to wait to hear the dial tone to get online. Now the biggest concern is ensuring your wireless connection remains at optimal speeds, even as devices move away from the modem and wireless router throughout the rest of the house.
Here we break down several useful technical terms to know when selecting, installing and maintaining a wireless router at home. That streaming movie marathon you have planned for this weekend will thank you!
- Modem v. Router: Both of these devices are imperative for getting online, but they are not the same thing. A modem is the product that makes the actual connection to the internet supplied through your provider. Modems are plugged into either a coaxial cable or DSL phone line. A wireless router is paired with a modem in order to correctly direct web traffic to devices and make the internet access wireless throughout your home.
- SSID: In the simplest terms, this is the name you give to your home’s web network. Out of the box, most routers will have a pre-assigned SSID comprised of numbers and letters or the brand’s name. Go ahead and change your network’s name to reflect your own personality or simply something that will be easy to share with guests. Have fun with picking a name!
- Password: As with most parts of your digital life, you’ll want to ensure the Wi-Fi network you’ve created is password protected to keep your system secure and maintain the speed of your connection. If you don’t have a password and your connection suddenly gets slow, it may have something to do with neighbors leaching from that high-speed Wi-Fi. Need extra incentive to change your password? Without password protection, the data transmitted through your network runs the risk of interception by outside devices. Basically, you won’t have a secure connection and shouldn’t enter financial details or any other personal data on websites.
- Firmware: Software speaks to the programs running on a device, while firmware is software built into a gadget and crucial to keep it running efficiently. If there’s a firmware upgrade available to your router at time of installation, be sure to download it and accept any future firmware pushes to keep everything in top shape.
- LAN: This acronym refers to a “local area network,” meaning all the computers work off the same router in a home or small office. When you think of all the devices in your home connected to your wireless router, that’s the LAN.
- WAN: As it relates to most households, the wide area network, or WAN, can be synonymous with the actual internet itself. WANs connect devices across large geographic locations, which is why the internet is considered the biggest example of a wide area network.
- Remote access: This might be useful for the IT management of a company, but in a household setting, remote access to your router is usually unnecessary. Eliminate any risk of an outside entity interfering with your connection by disabling the router’s remote access at the time of installation.
Are there key terms that you wish you had known before setting up your home’s Wi-Fi system? Share your experiences in the comments!
Author bio: Kelly Schwarze writes extensively on high tech in the home, providing how-to’s on efficiently incorporating and maintaining online communication devices. Kelly writes her tips and advice for The Home Depot. To review a selection of wireless gear, including router models discussed by Kelly, you can visit Home Depot online.