It’s a good idea to have some understanding of the basic components of your home network; your computers and smart devices depend on them to share files, and printers, and the Internet.
If you live in this area and you have Internet, you probably have a modem from Shaw or Telus. If that modem is relatively new, it will have a built-in wireless router and switch. If your needs are simple (i.e. you have four or fewer wired devices, and only short-range wireless needs), then connect your devices and you have a home network.
Wires are not passé. If you are trying to decide between a wired connection and a wireless one, remember: a wire is nearly always faster, more dependable, and more secure. And if you are sensitive to wireless signals, you can turn off the wireless feature. But if you want to connect more than four wired devices, you will need a “splitter”, more accurately called an “Ethernet switch”.
But wireless is handy. If you need better range or coverage for your wireless, you have several options: a stronger router, a wireless access point (WAP), a wireless repeater, or a set of mesh devices.
A network should not have more than one router on it, so if you opt for the “stronger router” approach, have Shaw/Telus “bridge” your modem, thus disabling the one built into the modem before you attach your own. Bridging can usually be done over the phone in a few minutes.
If you simply want to extend your wifi range in one direction, you could add a WAP (connected to the main router with a wire) or a wireless repeater (connected to the main router via wifi). And if you want the best speed/range/coverage, you might create a mesh network … which is basically one wireless router and one or more wireless repeaters configured in a grid layout. Mesh networks used to be out of reach for home users, because of their price and complexity. But now they are relatively affordable (lower cost than some high-end routers) and relatively easy to setup (via smartphone app).
If you are considering replacing one or more components of your network, it’s good to have a basic understanding of your options before you begin … that’s the best way to get the features that suit your needs.
That same basic knowledge is good if you have problems getting online. Know the components of your network so you have an idea of what to reset before calling for help: all network gear is meant to recover from a power outage, so it’s a good first step to unplug each component from power, wait 10 seconds, plug it back in, wait 5 minutes, and try accessing the Internet again.