Not long ago Colin Berkshire made an interesting observation about a trend in new home construction. He noticed that builders are no longer pulling cable for telephone and network connections, which leads to an “RJ-free” home. This makes a lot of sense for most homes, but it’s not what I would want for a home office.
Of course, Wifi is phenomenally convenient. Hereabouts we use a Ubiquiti PowerAP N device configured as a wireless bridge/access point. We’ve used various devices over the years. The Ubiquiti PowerAP has been without a doubt the best of the bunch. Sadly, the product is not available anymore, although they can occasionally be found on E-bay.
With a population of over forty devices, ours is a considerable home network. While many of the devices we use are connected via Wifi, much of the network remains connected by traditional Ethernet cables. Wired networks are more trouble to install, but the effort is rewarded with more consistent performance and reliability.
On this basis, our desktops, which have both wired and wireless network interfaces, are connected to the wired LAN. Their wireless interfaces are in fact disabled. The two laser printers, though they too are wireless capable, are also on the wired network. Basically everything that’s installed to a fixed location is on the wired network.
Mobile devices and things in otherwise isolated locations are typically on the wireless network. That means several Squeezebox music players, the Nest thermostat, our various cell phones & tablets are wireless.
There is a certain underlying reality to all of this. In the end there is no such thing as a purely wireless network*. All wireless networks eventually connect to wired backhaul.
Even in the broader mobile space, a carriers radio towers are connected to wired or fiber backhaul. WIMAX provider Clear rather famously made use of wireless backhaul, but eventually there was a wired network underpinning the wireless domain.
I certainly believe that pulling RJ-11 wiring into a house is pointless. We’ve used Gigaset SIP/DECT cordless phones for years, connecting them to our wired network. We may well be anomalous in that we maintain a home phone separate from our cell phones. In my office I use Polycom VVX Series SIP phones which are connected to the wired network.
I studied what was once called “structured wiring” when I was initially setting up our home wiring. That term seemed to imply some unreasonably costly metalwork that was intended to centrally corral RJ-11, RJ-45, coax and even doorbell wiring into a single location.
In those early days I bought the structured wiring cabinet because it hid the wiring away in a fashion that pleased my wife. That even though the wiring is comfortably out of view, tucked into the end of a central closet in the house. We outgrew it very quickly. I simply don’t see the value in such installations these days.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I want a solid wired network as the basis for our home and especially my home office. I want reliability and assured network performance.
For example, my office is in what was once the garage apartment. It’s physically separate from the house. I have several Cat 5 cables pulled through a conduit buried between the house and the garage/office. Anything that’s on the wired network is not in any way dependent upon the Wifi. It’s connected to an Ethernet switch that’s connected to my router, then onward to Comcast. All the core network gear is in a small built-in rack in my office along with a UPS.
A single PowerAP N in the house provides Wifi throughout the property. It’s located in the central closet in the house. It’s connected to a Cat5 home-run back to the main Ethernet switch in the office. Another Cat5 cable takes wired network access from the office to a smaller switch in the center of the house.
My wife hates wires. Hate’em! The only place that you’ll see Ethernet cables visible is in my office. Even so, if there’s a problem with the Wifi, which has happened a lot in the past, most of our network remains online. I like that. No, I require that.
That said, if we were house hunting or building a new home I’d likely DIY the network installation rather than incur the cost of allowing the builder to do that work.