How does your home network work?.
Using your home network is as easy as entering your password and opening the Netflix app to watch a movie, but your network and everything you need to keep it running smoothly are probably the most complex and unique devices you own.
Home networks exist so that digital devices can communicate with each other and with other devices in the world through a wide area network called the Internet. While you don’t need to understand exactly how your home network works to use it, spending some time outside will allow you to appreciate the technology and make troubleshooting easier.
Your Home Network Is a Mini Internet
The Internet is short for â€œinternet,â€ a global network of connected local area networks (LANs) that includes web servers, streaming and cloud services, game servers, and more.
Your home network is the same, but smaller and limited to your home. If you want to learn more about how your home network is like a mini internet, check out Who Owns the Internet? Web Architecture Explained for a simple explanation of the complex machine that is the Internet.
Your Home Network Speaks a Special Language
Aside from the physical resemblance to the Internet in general, another important aspect in which your home network and the Internet are the same is the “language” they speak. Today, the universal network protocol is TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), and it is the key to getting data where it needs to go.
In a TCP/IP network, all data sent over the network is broken up into “packets”. Imagine that you are turning a picture into a jigsaw puzzle with thousands of pieces. Then take each piece and put it into the envelope individually. Write the sender’s and recipient’s address on the envelope. Also include in each envelope information about where each piece goes to restore the original image.
Now send thousands of envelopes to the addressee, and he, for his part, will rearrange it. It does not matter if the envelopes arrived out of order, but if they are missing, letters will be returned to you asking you to send new copies of the missing parts.
Basic Home Network Topography
We’ll explain each network component in detail below, but to help you get your bearings, let’s sketch out what a typical home network looks like today.
Your network consists of several key components:
A modem connects you to the global network (Internet);a router manages traffic between devices on the local network and between these devices and the WAN.connections to network equipment . , typically Ethernet cables or Wi-Fi radios and receivers.Client devices such as computers or Android and iOS smartphones. Server devices, which can also be devices such as computers and smartphones.Additional network extenders that help expand the physical space of your network in your home. Examples include wireless access points, Powerline extenders, and Wi-Fi repeaters.
There are many different ways to build a home network, but most of these components are present in every home network. Other components may replace some of them. For example, if you just want to network a group of computers, you can use an Ethernet switch or a network hub. However, this basic outline covers 99% of what is there.
Now that we’ve drawn the rough outlines of the home network, we’ll delve into each of its major components.
The Modem Lets You Talk to the Internet
Before the advent of modern broadband Internet access, Internet access was via a modem (modulator/demodulator) that sent and received high-pitched or low-pitched audio signals over copper voice lines representing a binary code.
These “dial-up” modems are now almost obsolete and do not provide much bandwidth, although they are still used in a few rare cases where nothing else is possible. These days, the word modem is used to refer to almost any device that converts one type of network signal to another, even if both signals are actually digital.
One example of digital-to-digital conversion is a conventional fiber optic modem that receives optical signals and transmits electrical pulses over Ethernet cables. DSL modems use the same copper wire as phone lines, but use a different frequency band than voice calls, so you can connect to the Internet and make calls at the same time. Cellular modems connect to cell towers using radio waves. Satellite modems transmit information to and from orbit, etc.
On some networks, the modem is a standalone device, while on others, it’s bundled with your wireless router, which will be our next stop on this home networking journey.
The Router Sits at the Heart of Your Network
The router is the heart of any home network and performs a wide range of important tasks:
routing network traffic between devices, between Ethernet and local network, and between internal and external networks.DNS (Domain Name Service). ) server discovery and routing.Internally similar to a computer with CPU, RAM and OS. Some routers can run applications.Assigns and manages IP addresses on the local network using DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).
There is more to routers than these basic features, but this is the basic list of router features. Routing between different types of networks (fiber-optic WAN, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, etc.) is what makes a router a router and distinguishes it from network switches and hubs.
The router assigns IP addresses to internal network devices, ensuring that there are no conflicts. It keeps track of which device sends which request to devices on the Internet in a table known as NAT (Network Address Table) because servers on the Internet can only see the router itself and its “public” IP address.
Some high performance routers can run custom applications that act as NAS or streaming servers. Even if your router does not support this feature, you can install custom third-party firmware to add these features.
Your Local Servers
A server is a device on a network that offers services such as content or network applications. When you visit a website or download a file from the Internet, that content is hosted on a server somewhere in the world. When you use cloud applications such as Google Docs, this software and data is stored on the server.
There is at least one server on your local network, and that is your router. Each router has a basic web server that acts as an interface to change settings. When you connect to a router and enter its IP address in a browser, you will be taken to a website hosted on the router itself.
If you have a Wi-Fi printer, this is also the print server that handles print requests. Many people have NAS (Network Attached Storage) or media servers (like Plex) running on their network. Some things that you might not consider servers are also suitable. Your IP camera is also a server. It’s a video streaming server!
Traditionally, peripherals such as scanners and printers are connected directly to a particular computer. However, it is far more common in a modern household to have many different computers that need access to these types of devices. You can share a printer on a local network instead of everyone using the same computer when they need to print something.
Using the print sharing feature of your computer’s operating system allows you to use a regular printer connected to your computer as a shared printer. However, these days, you can just buy a printer, scanner, or multifunction device (MFP) with Wi-Fi or Ethernet and use it as a standalone share on your network.
Network Clients in Your Home
In addition to local servers on your home network, other devices, commonly referred to as clients, pull information from remote and local servers. Examples of LAN clients include:
computers, consoles, and mobile devices.Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart refrigerators and robotic vacuum cleaners.
Anything that receives data from a server device is a client, although any device can be both at the same time.
Computers, consoles, and mobile devices
Wired and Wireless Connections
Over the years, there have been several different standards for connecting to networks, but today in almost every home network you will find only two types of connection: Ethernet and Wi-Fi.
Don’t mix up the wires: Ethernet
Ethernet is a wired connection standard that carries TCP/IP data in home networks. The connector (RJ45) looks a bit like an oversized telephone line connection (RJ11) and contains several copper wires that vary depending on the category of Ethernet network cable being used.
Ethernet cables come in different categories that offer different maximum speeds. For example, category 6 network cables are rated for 10 Gbps, while category 5e cables are rated for gigabit speeds. It is important that the cable types match the speed your LAN ports are designed for. Connecting a 1Gbps cable to a 100Mbps port doesn’t hurt, but otherwise your speed will be limited to the maximum that the cable can handle!
Assuming you’ve chosen the right Ethernet cables, adapters, and router, you’ll enjoy a high-speed, ultra-reliable, low-latency network connection, as long as you don’t mind installing Ethernet connections throughout your home.
Wires? Where we go, we don’t need wires: Wi-Fi
While Ethernet is undeniably the gold standard when it comes to pure network performance, it’s not all that convenient. When it comes to mobile devices, this is completely impractical! That’s why we have Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) allowing wireless devices to connect to the network without drilling holes in the walls or plugging them in every time we need network features.
Wi-Fi uses radio waves to send digital pulses of information. Wi-Fi uses two frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The low frequency range cannot transmit data at high speeds, but it has a long range and the ability to penetrate walls. The 5GHz high-frequency Wi-Fi is ultra-fast, but is easily blocked by objects such as walls.
Most modern Wi-Fi routers are “dual-band”, which means they offer connections on both frequency bands. Wi-Fi is divided into generations. In the past, these generations would have numbered names reflecting the name of the communication standard for that Wi-Fi generation. For example, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. These names have been changed to simple numbers to make them more user friendly. So now 802.11ac is just Wi-Fi 6, and the latest 802.11ax standard is Wi-Fi 6.
Older Wi-Fi devices may not connect to newer routers, especially if the device only supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and the router in question only supports 5GHz.
Extending Your Networkâ€™s Reach
With so many devices, both current and future, to connect to your home network, you’ll probably want to make sure the network reaches every corner of your home. This is easier said than done with anything that can block a wireless signal, or the expense and effort of running Ethernet around your home.
The good news is that there are many products on the market that will help you increase the area of â€‹â€‹your network so that there are no points in your home that cannot be connected.
A Wi-Fi repeater is a device that connects to the edge of an existing Wi-Fi network before the Wi-Fi signal drops out. It listens for packets in and out of the underlying Wi-Fi network and then simply repeats them. This is a slow solution, but an easy way to extend Wi-Fi to specific points without changing the network.
This system sends network signals through the existing electrical wiring in your home. It’s as easy as plugging in a PowerLine adapter near your router and in the room where you want to expand your network.
Instead of expanding the footprint of your regular router, wireless mesh routers completely replace your existing router. Think of them as one big distributed router. The primary mesh unit connects to your modem, and then each sub unit has a dedicated wireless or wired connection to it.
One Big Networked Family
The technology on your home network can be incredibly complex, but over time the technology has gotten smarter and much easier to use. No one knows what the future of home networking will be. However, it may look very different thanks to the development of technologies such as millimeter wave 5G cellular networks that are blurring the line between LANs and WANs.
How does your home network work?
How does your home network work?