Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rock on down to Electric Avenue

In my career as a CIO I see a lot of old practices (as in those developed in the 1980s/90s) still being used today.  Rather than virtualize, many companies still keep on buying a freshly minted computer or laptop for every new employee that comes in the door.  The same thing happens with computers that get older than three years.  People just shrug their shoulders and order up a replacement. 

Since I've got a blog coming where I will be discussing virtualization, I'll leave that topic alone for the time being.

Today I want to talk about what happens in the home - yours and mine.  Most of us utilize wireless routers in our homes.  These devices have become so useful that it only takes about five minutes to set them up before you're off and running.  However, there are other times when people actually need a wired connection.  There are several reasons for this to occur.  You could have spacial or architectural limitations where the wireless network won't reach.  Or if you're like me, you have an entertainment center where every device - TV, satellite/cable, Xbox, Playstation, Wii, BluRay, etc. - all need to be "hardwired".  However, like me your Internet provider is bringing the raw signal into the house at some other point not even close to the TV.  So what do you do then?  Surprisingly, I've heard as recently as this year (2012) that people are "pulling cable" throughout their domicile.  In layman's terms, they are building out expensive networks where they are running ethernet ports to every room.  Not only is this unnecessary, it's really expensive considering that there is a much better alternative.  This alternative is called powerline networking.

All you have to do is go to your local electronics store and invest about $200 in devices (I prefer Netgear; any chance of an endorsement deal, guys?) that look like little night-lights.  In short, you connect your modem (DSL, cable, whatever) to this device which is then plugged into the nearest electrical outlet.  Voila!  Your whole house is now networked.  At any other electrical outlet you can withdraw the Internet connection with an identical device.  I've tested the result and there is no discernible loss of signal strength or bandwidth.

These devices have proved invaluable to me in both the home and business settings across three continents!  If you have a problem getting Internet connectivity to the right location, these little devices are lifesavers.  Ethernet cabling is so last century...