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When Does It Make Sense to Use Ethernet vs WiFi?

WiFi lets you use your mobile device or laptop on your network from any room and is a workaround when you don’t want to run a cable in a room. WiFi is best used as a means of convenience if you don’t want to cut into walls to run a cable, or dig up the yard. Also, if a device needs to move around, then WiFi is the right choice.

On the other hand, if you have a desktop PC, server, streaming media device (Apple TV, Roku), game console or set-top box that stays by your TV, Ethernet is still the best option. Assuming it’s easy enough to plug the devices in with an Ethernet cable, you’ll get a more consistently solid connection and better overall experience.

Sometimes you need a combination of cable and wireless. If your Internet connection is dropping or slow when using WiFi, then adding a wired device to extend the WiFi connection may be the best choice. Many people opt for an extender, but many times this may not be the best choice of equipment to solve the problem. There are a variety of WiFi products that are considered when putting together a network; access points, bridges, extenders, adapters. Adding a single device won’t necessarily fix the problem if it is not the right one and configured improperly.

The best way to ensure a quality network is to identify what you want for data, audio and video throughout your home and outdoors and then have a network specialist design and install your infrastructure.

Understanding cat 5e and cat 6 cable

Just a few years ago, the choice of Ethernet cable for residential usage was Category 5 or 5e. In most cases, Cat 5e is still perfectly fine. However, there can be a need for the more expensive Cat 6 cable. We will try to explain the difference between these two cables and then which should be selected and why.

First, the name category 5, 5e or 6 cables is wrong. The correct cable name is Unshielded Twisted Pair, UTP. UTP is the broad heading for the cable type and it refers to its construction. The cable is unshielded and the copper conductors are twisted together in pairs. The amount of pairs of copper wires can vary from 1 to thousands of pairs. There are 4 pairs of wires in each cable for Ethernet network use.

Ethernet cables are rated for performance into sequentially numbered categories (“cat”) based on different specifications specifically for use in Ethernet networking; sometimes the category is updated with further clarification or testing standards. As the category number gets higher, so does the speed and megahertz (Mhz) capibility of the cable.

Here is a very important point. As mentioned in the above paragraph the “category” rating is for Ethernet usage only. UTP cables are used for many things in the home and business. It is a very versatile cable type and can be used to carry audio signals, video signals, doorbells, lighting controls, landline telephones, etc. It is very easy to get confused about the functions of the cable can. In this article we are focusing on the use for Ethernet networking.

There are two main physical differences between Cat-5 and Cat-6 cables, the number of twists per cm in the wire, and the thickness of the copper wires. While cable twisting length is not standardized, typically Cat 5e has 1.5-2 twists per cm and Cat 6 has 2 or more twists per cm. The additional twists help cut down interference and increase speed. A nylon spline inserted into some manufacturers Cat 6 cable helps eliminate crosstalk in the wire and makes for a heftier cable.

We will go deeper into the uses of this cable type in future articles.

For a more indepth look at cables, go to http://www.howtogeek.com/70494/what-kind-of-ethernet-cat-5e6a-cable-should-i-use/

LAWS Golf Tournament – September 2

Home & Office Network Solutions supports the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter and has already signed on as a Sip & Swing sponsor. If you would like to sponsor this important charity, here is some basic information. Contact bonnie.little@hns-ons.com for information on sponsorships and golfing.

LAWS poster final (2)

Spring Storm Preparedness

Protecting Your Technology

Are you running around the house shutting down your TV and computers, pulling the power cords out of the wall as you hear a storm approaching? If so you are doing the best thing possible to protect your investment. You read that right, unplugging the power cables from the wall outlet is the best thing to do when there is a storm approaching. The reason behind this is simple. NO household electrical protection device will stop a direct/near direct lightening hit.

Thankfully most of us will never experience a direct lightning strike on our house. I’ve seen them and the results are catastrophic. We will however have our electricity flicker, spike up, drop down and go off as a result of a storm. This is where power protection devices can save the electronics that are connected to them.

In a home and small business there are typically two types of power protection devices deployed; Power Strips with overvoltage protection and Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) also known as battery backups. The type of power protection device used is dependent on the electronic device that it is protecting. TVs, audio components etc. are typically protected by Power Strips. PCs, surveillance cameras & DVRs are usually on a UPS. The correct device to use starts with a couple of simple questions. Do I need the electronic device to keep working through a small power disruption? Does the electronic device have moving parts like a hard drive that could be damaged during a momentary loss of power? If the answer is yes to either question then a UPS is the direction to go. If the answer is no to the two questions then the use of a power strip will most likely do an adequate job of power protection. If unsure then you should always go with the UPS.

Communication carrier changes

What to do!

We are aware that the major communications carriers, i.e. Verizon, Comcast, etc. are raising rates and also requiring fully digital services. Please read this article in its entirety before calling your existing carrier or a competitor.
We wrote an article several months ago titled “Cancel Your Cable?” This article addresses deciding between having or not having cable. We will address some other issues below that have consumers questioning their cable services.

The first thing to do when you receive information that you will need something else or an additional charge has been added to your service is to call your carrier. No one likes to call the comm. companies & getting a human being can take a while, but you have the right to review your services with them, find out if there are any options to keep your costs where they are, or even lower them, i.e. bundling, removing channels, etc. When you buy a cell phone, you probably spend hours in the store not selecting the phone, but selecting the service that fits your lifestyle. Why not do the same with your communications carrier.

Then, if you are not happy with the end result from your existing carrier, you need to call another communications carrier that services your area. Be sure to have a grocery list of services so you can compare Apples to Apples. If the other carrier doesn’t offer wireless services and this was bundled into the plan offered by your existing carrier, then you need to remove that cost and be sure you have the “non-bundled cost” to compare. So, before calling, review the carriers’ websites to see what services they offer.

Note: Communications carriers provide these services: landlines, cell phone (not all), cable, Internet and even security. But, they don’t all offer the same services, i.e. Comcast doesn’t offer cell phone service like Verizon does.

After you have figured out what your communications services will cost, you then can compare them to the cost of changing services. But, there is one more factor to consider before you decide to change carriers; how will it impact your technology infrastructure and what is the cost to make those needed changes. These charges can more than offset the savings gained from switching providers.

Here are things that would have to be modified when you change systems and are not included in the cost to change services.

1) Remote programming: if you have a universal remote, you will have to have it reprogrammed to use (with the new equipment required for) the service. Communication carriers can set up their remote, i.e. the one that comes with a new cable box, but they will not touch a universal remote. Other (components) remotes may also need to be reprogrammed (if they interacted with things like the cable box) such as a smart TV or audio system.

2) Network infrastructure: if you have set up a network infrastructure tied to your cable’s existing service, the network infrastructure will have to be re-engineered to accommodate how the new carrier functions. For example; if you switch to Comcast and have your network set up for Verizon, there could be additional cables and or equipment required for the existing network to operate correctly. The extent of the re-engineering depends on the service that you get and the equipment that they provide.

3) Stability of the new service:
You might want to check with neighbors who have the competitive service to see what they think it. How often do they lose their cable? If you are considering changing Internet too, what speed do they have and is it reliable.

The big question is what do the numbers work out to? If you are saving $25 per month by choosing another carrier, that totals $600 over a 2 year period. If it costs $500 to make the necessary remote or network adjustments the net savings is only $100. That begs the question… Is $100 worth the pain of the change to another carrier?