Today, you can find network attached storage (NAS) devices for business and home applications in both wired and wireless configurations. Even so, with today’s wireless technology, both on client side and server side, you will almost always get a more reliable connection by using a wired NAS. Ideally, you would have the NAS connected directly to your router and then the client device connected to the router through a wired connection as well. This serves gaming consoles and multimedia streaming devices particularly well. However, the realities of a home or small office network setup often preclude connecting Ethernet cables throughout the space. If you aren’t willing to tear holes in walls and snake cables throughout several floors and rooms, there is a happy medium between the unreliable nature of WiFi and the cost and hassle of hardwired Ethernet: powerline networking.
Powerline networking uses a building’s existing electrical wiring to transmit data through normal AC outlets. They work by connecting an Ethernet over powerline adapter to an AC outlet, which essentially turns the outlet into an Ethernet port. Any device connected to the powerline Ethernet adapter can transfer data to and from any other device connected to a powerline Ethernet adapter that’s been plugged into the same electrical system (i.e. the outlets must both be connected to the same circuit breaker box or distribution panel).
The advantages of powerline networking are many. First of all, you get a reliable, wired connection for any device in the home or office. This eliminates issues caused by interference from radio devices, microwaves, thick walls, air ducts and other wireless routers in the neighborhood. Secondly, it takes advantage of the fastest network adapter available on most client devices. Most devices will have a 10/100 Fast Ethernet port that can transfer data at speeds up to 100 Mbps. Newer devices may have 10/10/1000 Gigabit Ethernet ports that can transfer data at speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, or 1 Gbps. The most common wireless protocols (802.11 b/g/n) on the other hand, transfer data at 11 Mbps/54 Mbps/600 Mbps, respectively, with many devices still lacking wireless-N capabilities. While you won’t experience much difference between wireless connections and wired connections when accessing the Internet, support for speeds up to and in excess of 100 Mbps will be noticeable when accessing files on a NAS attached to your local network.
The disadvantage of powerline networking is that it can be limited by the electrical circuitry in the building. Older circuits may degrade the speed and reliability of the connection, though most buildings will not have this issue. Powerline networking is also significantly slower than a straight Ethernet connection. Affordable powerline networking adapters max out around 500 Mbps, with many adapters on the market still ranging in the 54 Mbps to 200 Mbps speeds. These speeds will still be better than WiFi in most cases, however.
If you are unable to keep a NAS in the same room as a router, where it can plug directly into the router, your next best bet is to go with a powerline Ethernet connection from the NAS to the router. Then, also use either straight Ethernet connections or powerline Ethernet connections for high priority devices, such as desktop computers, servers, streaming TV boxes and gaming consoles. Even if you are still forced to rely on wireless connections, say for laptops, smartphones and tablets, having that wired connection between the NAS and the router will improve your speeds and reliability for all client devices accessing the networked data storage.
Powerline Networking and Network Attached Storage
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