Ethernet Vs Wi-Fi: How to Decide Which Works For You

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Most people who are looking to have an internet connection installed at home or office wonder which type of internet connection between Ethernet and Wi-Fi would provide a faster, reliable, convenient and more secure connectivity with lower latency


Internet connection has enabled us to do so much with ease. We stay connected and in touch with friends and family over the internet regardless of our location. During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the internet has enabled learning, healthcare, entertainment and businesses to continue remotely. 


The internet is a great convenience; however, people have different experiences depending on the kind of connection they have at home or workplace. Some say Ethernet is better, while others swear by Wi-Fi. So, which should you go for? Here’s how to decide whether to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi signals or wired ethernet connection.


What is Ethernet Connection And How Does It Work?

Ethernet connection is simply a wired connection to the internet via a data cable called ethernet cable. Specialised ethernet cables are used to connect several devices through an ethernet port to an internet hub or router. Ethernet cables are therefore an essential component of the ethernet connection hardware. 


These cables come in different categories and are optimised to perform differently under diverse circumstances. The most widely used ethernet cables are category 5 and 6, commonly abbreviated as CAT5 and CAT6 respectively. 


Ethernet cables are either be solid cables or stranded. Solid ethernet cables perform much better than the stranded type. They can also be wired through walls and floors making them suitable for businesses. On the other hand, stranded ethernet cables are suitable for travellers or a home network set up because they are resistant to cracking and breakage. 


In most homes and offices, ethernet is the most preferred local area network (LAN) technology for connecting to the internet. We use different types of ethernet and ethernet cables depending on desired ethernet speeds. You can use fast ethernet, gigabit ethernet or 10-gigabit ethernet with appropriate ethernet cables to achieve maximum connection speeds on ethernet connections


Besides connecting your devices at home and work place to the online world, ethernet and ethernet cables can also be used to create a local network of several devices thereby enabling sharing of information locally across networked devices. 



What Is Wi-Fi Network And How Does It Work?

Wi-Fi is an abbreviation for Wireless Fidelity. A Wi-Fi network is a type of internet connection that uses wireless signals to connect Wi-Fi enabled devices to the internet and to each other. In other words, you do not need a cable connection to access internet when using Wi-Fi. The wireless signal transmits data from your Wi-Fi router to your wireless devices.


Your wireless devices and Wi-Fi router together form your home or office network. When you add a modem to this network, all the devices in the network get access to the internet. We are presently using wireless network to connect a growing number of devices in our smart homes and offices to the internet, also known as the Internet of things (IoT)


It is therefore important that you install a Wi-Fi router which uses the latest technology so that you can enjoy simultaneous and seamless communication between multiple devices in your wireless network. Typical wireless and IoT devices we have in our home or office networks include: 


• Smartphones

• Personal computers

• Printers

• Gaming consoles

• Tablets

• Smart TVs

• Printers and scanners

• Thermostats 

• Security cameras

• Medical devices and wearable health monitors

• Smoke alarms

• Door locks

• Fridges

• Amazon fire TV sticks

• Chromecast dongles 

• Back up devices

• Set-top boxes



While ethernet and Wi-Fi are the most widely used types of connection in homes and businesses, they are not the only wired and wireless technologies that provides access to the internet. Other similar technologies exist. Below is a list of other wired and wireless types of connection technology that exist alongside ethernet and Wi-Fi;


• Mobile internet connection

• Dial-up internet connection

• Broad bandwidth (Broadband) internet connection 

• Digital subscriber line (DSL)

• Integrated services digital network (ISDN)

• Cable internet connection 

• Satellite 



Which Type of Connection Is Best For Your Needs?

In most homes and businesses, people connect more than one smart device to a single internet connection. This can result in connectivity issues like reduced speeds and irregular signals. 


Internet connectivity issues can be frustrating when they occur. Watching a webpage on your computer load at snail’s pace or waiting endlessly for a video to download or stream is not an experience people want to go through every day. Business or job calls that are important to us can be interrupted when we least expect as a result of internet problems. 


Internet problems vary depending on the type of internet connection installed in our homes or at work. Having a clear understanding of the differences between available types of internet connection is very important in helping you choose the type of connection that is right for your home or business needs. 


Because it is you who understands the connectivity needs of your home or business, look at the following comparison between Ethernet and Wi-Fi then decide if you will go wireless or run some cables. 


Installation and set-up cost 

Internet connection is a utility bill and therefore you should choose an affordable option. Comparing prices of different types of connection will help you make an informed decision. 


While the complexity of hardware and expertise level required to assemble them will determine your internet installation cost, the monthly bill will depend on the speeds you purchase from your service provider. 


Ethernet connection requires a professional to assemble the ethernet hardware. Also, because every single device is connected by a separate ethernet cable to the port, it takes a considerable amount of time and money to install ethernet for multiple devices. On the other hand, it is easy to set up and configure Wi-Fi. You can have it up and running within a short time and it costs relatively less because there are minimal wiring expenses. 


Speed, bandwidth and latency

The type of connection you choose determines the internet speeds and latency you will get. Internet speed is an estimation of the amount of data your type of connection can download or upload per second, usually denoted as megabits per second (Mbps). 


Latency is the time that lapses between when you input a search query and when you see the result page. It is measured in milliseconds. The kind of work or tasks you will be performing over the internet as well as the number of devices that will be accessing your internet simultaneously determines your internet speed and latency. 


Ethernet cables enable high speed connections with maximum data transfer speeds. On the other hand, wireless networks such as Wi-Fi transfer data using slow radio waves. In order to determine whether you got the desired speed and latency, you can perform internet speed and latency tests. You can also compare speed and latency of ethernet and Wi-Fi connections by performing same tasks on your devices and observing response time over each type of connection. 



Flexibility and convenience 

Ethernet is a wired connection with no flexibility during use as your device must remain tethered to a port via ethernet cable. This does not allow mobility, making it very inconveniencing when you need to move between rooms or offices with the device while staying connected. Also, there is a maximum length beyond which ethernet connection via an ethernet cable won’t work properly. 


In contrast, connecting your networkable devices to the internet using Wi-Fi at home or work place does not require tethering to a port. Wi-Fi enables your devices to be connected wirelessly to each other and share internet using hotspots, although within a limited space. Because there is no direct physical connection of devices via data cables in a Wi-Fi network, mobility is enhanced making Wi-Fi much more convenient. 


Reliability and stability

A reliable and stable internet connection is good because it ensures efficiency while performing tasks over the internet. A strong network does not have frequent down times and if it happens, the recovery period is brief. When you send messages across devices or make an enquiry over the internet, the amount of time that lapses before you receive a response is a measure of reliability of your connection. 


If your internet connection drops midway, say when you are transferring big data resulting in delays, it is simply not reliable. When you are connected to the internet through a Wi-Fi connection, you are likely to experience intermittent signals as you move from one place to another. Ethernet connections remain stable once your device is tethered to an ethernet port. 


Data encryption and security

Keeping your business data and information private is very important. Encryption helps to ensure data confidentiality by converting it to encoded form that can only be decoded using a unique decryption key. 


When you protect your business data privacy and only give access to legitimate users, you can be sure that the integrity of critical data such as financial information and customer demographics is safe from hackers. 


Data can be encrypted where it is stored or during transfer from one device or user to another. Because wireless enabled devices connect to the internet and to each other over airwaves, they are vulnerable to hackers, scammers and other forms of cyber-attacks. 


As such, when you are connected to the internet via Wi-Fi network, there is need for data encryption during transfer over the network. Data encryption is not mandatory over ethernet connection because you can control who has access to your LAN.  


Factors That May Interfere With Ethernet And Wi-Fi Signals


Ethernet

• Category of ethernet cable

• Length of ethernet cable

• Electrical resistance along cables

• Number of devices connected to a network

• Breakages and cracks in the ethernet cable

• Poor cabling installation 


Wi-Fi

• Physical obstacles like thick walls

• Home appliances and devices like microwaves and cordless phones

• Number of devices connected to the network

• Distance from the router or access point

• Outdated wireless hardware 

• Outdated firmware

• Other Wi-Fi networks in the neighbourhood 



How To Solve Common Causes Of Signal Interference

While you can easily find solution to some of the above causes of signal interference, it is recommended that you always contact professional internet installation experts to detect and fix your internet problems. Nonetheless, here are some of the ways you can solve common issues that cause you to lose connection:


• Position your router away from obstacles. When you place your router in a central place close to your main devices, you will enjoy a strong connection. 

• Troubleshoot your internet connection issues by restart your router. Restarting your router allows it to select a channel with the least signal interference.

• If your internet router is connected to several devices at once, it gets overwhelmed. Avoid such strain on your network by shutting down devices that are not in use.

• Use a Wi-Fi range extender to expand your internet coverage to other rooms that are dead zones and would not allow you to connect to your Wi-Fi router. 

• Call expert internet installers or your service provider for internet problems whose origin you are unable to identify.


Choose Between Wi-Fi and Ethernet Based On Need

The information in this article should help you choose between ethernet an Wi-Fi based on need. We do not use the internet for a single task. We have multiple needs that require internet connectivity and therefore it is important to keep this in mind when considering internet installation in your home or business. Some of these needs include:


• Transferring files

• Gaming

• Video streaming

• Browsing

• Virtual communication


Professional Data and Ethernet Services

The type of connection you choose for any or a combination of these needs should offer you the advantages of better speed, lower latency and stable internet signals.  Be the judge whether it is ethernet or Wi-Fi connection that will offer you the convenience you need to carry out tasks over the internet. If you are still stuck, talk to a professional company data and electrical company and they will listen and help you settle on a connection that best suits your situation. 


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