A desktop PC does not require a router to connect to the Internet; a CAT-5 cable can run directly from the DSL or cable modem Internet signal output to the desktop’s network interface card. There are, however, two reasons to deploy a router with a desktop computer: to connect several computers to a single modem with wired connectivity or to provide a wireless connection for one or more devices. Only higher quality routers supply this second service, called Wi-Fi.
If you contract with a digital subscriber line provider such as AT&T, you may be supplied with a combination modem and wired plus wireless router. If your desktop computer is near your DSL line -- which is generally your telephone land line -- and you have no other device that can connect to the Internet wirelessly, then simply plug the CAT-5 cable into the NIC on the rear panel of your desktop machine. Otherwise you can use the wireless router portion of your combination device to set up a Wi-Fi signal that can be used by your other appliances to access the Internet and your local network. Common Wi-Fi devices include smartphones, laptops and tablet computers.
If you are connecting more than one desktop to the Internet or setting up a home network, you need a router with enough ports to accommodate all the machines involved. Most standard home and small-business routers come equipped with four or five ports. If you choose not to run CAT-5 cable throughout the house or office, you need a router with wireless capability and a wireless NIC for each desktop you wish to be part of your network. Another method to connect two or more desktop computers to a network uses house wiring. Ethernet adapters plug into your AC wall sockets and connect to the router or NIC with a CAT-5 cable. A second router can also be connected to these power-line adapters for Wi-Fi connectivity.
VoIP and QoS Routers
If you plan to use your Internet connectivity to make telephone calls using Voice over Internet Protocol, look for a router that features a high Quality of Service rating and has load-balancing capability. These routers maintain an equal bandwidth distribution at all times, allowing one or more desktops and the telephone lines equal access to the DSL or cable modem signal.
Routers come with varying degrees of network and Internet security. Routers designed for home or small business generally have a single layer of Wi-Fi security using password encryption. Access through the cable or DSL land line is protected by a similar firewall generally with 128 bit encryption. Additional firewalls of both hardware and software may be added as needed. It must be noted that considering how sophisticated hackers can break into banks and government institutions, the only way to totally protect data is to keep it on a separate drive off the network.
Read as many router-related reviews and forums as time allows before purchasing a router. When you decide on the make and model, shop around both on the Internet and at brick-and-mortar stores. Keep in mind that price is only one factor in your purchasing decision. The advice and counsel of a locally based expert salesperson can be just as valuable as a 10 or 20 percent discount.
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