Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Real World Example: Getting a network connection where you need it most

I have a long time client who has always had difficulties with their wireless network. The construction of their home, and outlying office suite, seems to suck up whatever bit of wireless signal a typical WiFi router sends out. In order to reach the outlying office, I had previously installed a Linksys Range Expander. While this worked, partially, it often needed to be restarted and wasn't nearly as reliable as I would like. What I really needed was a way to link these remote areas back to the main router without using wireless. Luckily, I found a solution.

This client called last week and said that the Link Expander had failed completely. That wasn't too surprising as it was living in an un-cooled garage. The heat probably finally did it in. This meant, though, that I needed to come up with a different, and hopefully better, solution. I had looked at the powerline network extenders, which use your home of office electrical wiring to distribute network data, but most reviews seemed lukewarm, at best. I then turned to my fellow Friends in Tech members and George Starcher directed me to the powerline product he is using in his own home office, the Panasonic BL-PA100KTA Ethernet Adaptor Starter Pack. You can find a diagram of George's entire network on the Friends in Tech web site, in the post entitled, My Home Network - Yup I am a GEEK.

Setting up the devices was a simple matter of plugging them into the same wall outlet for power and pressing the Setup button on each unit. After about 5-10 seconds, the status lights showed that they had seen each other and established a connection.

This Starter Pack comes with 2 units, one which operates as the Master and the other which operates as the remote terminal. In my case, I plugged the Master unit into the existing Linksys router and then plugged its power cable into the wall jack. I took the remote terminal into the remote office, plugged it into the power outlet there and then connected an Ethernet network cable from this box into the client's Macbook.

It was then the moment of truth. While I had hoped it would work, issues with the electrical wiring in a home and electrical noise can cause issues with the devices. Luckily, it was simply a matter of firing up the web browser on the Mac and it quickly showed we were connected to the Internet. Even better, the speed of the Internet seemed much faster than using the previous Range Expander. Success...and it only took about 15 minutes total to set up. You can also add additional terminals to extend the network into different rooms.

Only time will tell how well this unit works, but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to set up and how well it worked. Your mileage may vary, but if you need to get an Internet connection to an out-of-the-way part of your home or office, this might just be the best answer available.

Link: Panasonic BL-PA100KTA Ethernet Adaptor Starter Pack

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