Which works better for your home network, a hub or a router? This article defines the terms used in home networking and provides an overview of how these items work together to comprise a home network.
What is a home network?
Do you need a hub or a router to run your home network? First, a little tutoring is in order here. In the past five years, over sixty percent of ISP (Internet Service Provider) users have added home networks to their technology systems. By far the majority of these customers have little or no idea what a network is, let alone whether to use a router or a hub. A home network is defined as an Internet access point, together with all of the devices that use that access point to sign onto the Internet. For clarity, let’s assume a family owns a smart TV, a Kindle, a tablet, two laptop computers, three Android cell phones, and one desktop computer. Each of these devices is capable if signing onto the Internet. All are considered to be computers. That collection of devices and their access point – the piece of equipment that provides connection-comprise a home network.
A hub resembles a rectangular mouse. It is a block of Ethernet connection ports with a wire that connects to a single Ethernet port in much the way a power strip allows you to plug in several pieces of equipment while using only one wall outlet. A hub is a wired connection to your modem or router that allows you to hard wire all Internet devices with appropriate connector ports to one device, most often the modem. An advantage is that you don’t need usernames or passwords to connect via a hub, and no one is likely to park in your driveway and piggy-back on your Internet service. The disadvantages include the fact that many devices cannot be connected to a hub. Tablets, smart phones, Kindles, and others, cannot be plugged into the hub. And even those that can be plugged in then lose the chief advantage of their existence: portability. Not everyone wants to sit at the modem location to use a laptop. The same restriction applies to devices hard wired to a router.
A router is basically a signal transmitter. It can be wireless or not. If you want to enjoy the portability of a Wi-Fi device, you need a wireless router. Then you can watch TV on the tablet in your bedroom, do your homework to the tune of Garth Brooks on your laptop at the other end of the house, or play games on your iPad on the sofa. The router is a small box that connects to your modem, and then uses a broadband wave to transmit an Internet signal to a device. It usually also has several Ethernet ports where devices may be wired in. Thus, if your desktop PC is not Wi-Fi capable, it can be used wired to the router, while other devices use Wi-Fi to connect through the same router or access point.
What is that modem you keep mentioning?
The modem is the equipment piece that receives the cable, satellite, or telephone DSL signal, and then disperses it to wired devices, such as a router, a hub or a PC. Modems have not been wireless until recently but are now being manufactured with internal routers, doing away with at least one piece of the spaghetti-like mess of wires that surround your desk.
So, which do you need, hub or router?
That depends on your lifestyle. If you plan to do all your computing within about seven feet of your modem, you can probably use a hub. If your family computes all over the house, you clearly need a wireless router.