Different Ways to Use Wi-Fi in a Network

In the last section, I just discussed some of the implications of "stringing together" computers to make something more powerful than any individual computer on the network. But suppose you didn't have to physically "string" the computers? Well, of course, with Wi-Fi you don't.

If you are going to Wi-Fi?enable a small network, there are really two ways to go about doing it:

  • You can use Wi-Fi to connect the entire network.

  • You can mix wired and Wi-Fi connections.

Of course, the option of creating an entire network without wires using Wi-Fi is probably only available if you don't already have a network. If you already have a wired network that works, you most likely will not want to replace it. Instead, you'll just want to add Wi-Fi capabilities so that you can go mobile.

For a completely Wi-Fi network, assuming you want to have a shared connection to the Internet, you still need a modem for that purpose. In addition, you'll need a Wi-Fi router to connect to the modem. (You can also buy all-in-one modem and Wi-Fi routers as a single unit, as I'll explain in more detail in Chapter 13, "Buying a Wi-Fi Access Point or Router.")

A Wi-Fi network of this sort will look something like the network shown in Figure 4.8.

Figure 4.8. This network topology shows a setup that uses only Wi-Fi?and no wires?to connect to the Internet.

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In some cases, household devices such as microwaves and telephones have spectrum conflicts with Wi-Fi networks. This can be another reason to maintain some wired connections in your network.

Perhaps you already have a working wired network. It probably makes sense to keep it. After all, there's a great saying, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it." Besides which, it probably doesn't make sense to retrofit your network devices for Wi-Fi. You simply may not be able to retrofit some devices, such as older network printers, to work with Wi-Fi. You might not want to go out and buy all new equipment that works with Wi-Fi.

If you are adding Wi-Fi capability to an existing wire-line network, what you have to do is connect a Wi-Fi access point (AP) "after" the router. ("After" means that you need to add the access point on your side of the router, not the Internet side.)

Figure 4.9 shows what a small network with both wired and Wi-Fi capabilities might look like.

Figure 4.9. In mixed wire-line and Wi-Fi networks, the Wi-Fi access point needs to be connected "after" the router.

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