A Quick Powerline / HomePlug Home Networking Guide

I don’t know about you, but I simply love wired Ethernet connections! Yes, they don’t provide the convenience of a Wi-Fi network, but nothing can beat them when it comes to speed and signal reliability.

In addition to this, with wireless networks, you are limited to distances below 30…50 feet. And once you’ve hit that limit, you are required to purchase additional pieces of hardware, which don’t always work as expected.

So, what’s a guy like you and me supposed to do to get decent Internet coverage in his home? Well, one of the less used technologies that combines the speed of wired solutions and the flexibility of Wi-Fi networks is Powerline.

About two decades ago, several companies have created the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, with the goal of setting up a standard technology which helps people connect to a network by making use of the existing power outlets.

The first version of the technology was able to transfer data at rates of up to 80 Mbps. Modern HomePlug versions have a typical transfer rate of 200 Mbps, and can go up to 1 Gbps, depending on proprietary technologies.

To set up a typical HomePlug network, you will need two or more Powerline adapters. Each adapter will be plugged into a power outlet, and then it can connect to any device that has an Ethernet cable input.

Some HomePlug adapters support multiple Ethernet ports; still, even if your adapter doesn’t include two or more plugs, you can fix the problem by connecting it to a standard router. In fact, some HomePlug models incorporate Wi-Fi adapters, allowing their owners to experience the best of both worlds.

Often times, setting up and running a HomePlug-based network is very simple. The adapters can connect by simply pushing a button that pairs them. Still, it is wise to install and configure the software applications that come bundled with the devices; their goal is to help you build a strong, encrypted network. Otherwise, anyone that has access to the same power grid can easily spy on you.

You may be wondering if this is a real problem. According to Symantec, the number of web-based attacks has almost doubled in 2017, and most of the top tools that make them possible have increased their reach since 2016. Here’s a graph produced by Data Alliance which shows the top threats.

So yes, this is a very serious problem. Be sure to find out what the included software does, and enable all its security features.

It is highly recommended to plug the adapters straight into the wall sockets whenever it is possible. As tempting as it may sound, plugging them into an UPS may limit data transfer speed – or even prevent the devices from working! Sure, if you live in a rainy area and you are afraid that a lightning strike may damage your equipment, you should make use of an uninterrupted power supply. But keep in mind that plugging the Powerline adapter into an extension cord is not a good idea.

Believe it or not, Powerline adapters aren’t that widespread. And there are a few explanations for this, of course. First of all, they are quite expensive. Although their prices have decreased during the last few years, you will still have to pay around $150 for a good pair. On the other hand, you can get a decent router that does the job for around $60.

Another problem arises from the limits imposed by electrical wiring. Some residences use low-quality wires, and this can affect the data sending and receiving process as well.

Finally, the signal that travels through a network based on Powerline adapters can suffer from interference, the same way it happens with a regular Wi-Fi network. If your neighbors are heavy power tools users, you may have a hard time trying to set up and maintain a stable Internet connection.

Despite these advantages, Powerline adapters are the recommended solution in many cases. By making use of them, it is very easy to set up a network without installing other wires in your home, for example.

In larger residences, Powerline adapters can save people a lot of money, allowing them to set up home networks without having to invest in several routers, hubs, signal repeaters, and so on.

Another advantage: properly set up Powerline connections have a much lower network latency in comparison with Wi-Fi networks.

Finally, if you’d rather keep your data traveling across your home’s wires, instead of having it fly over open space and being accessible to anyone in the area, the way it happens with Wi-Fi, a HomePlug-based network may be your best bet.

I hope that this quick guide has helped you understand the pros and cons of the HomePlug technology. And now that you know it all, I think that you will agree with me: sometimes, Powerline may be the best solution you’ve got at your disposal.

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