Less is More

As a tech, it’s not in my nature to choose form over function.  Sometimes, however, they can be the same thing, if you just think about it.  Home networking can be an example.  It’s possible, with very little effort, to set up a high-speed network in your house.  That doesn’t mean your home should look like a Borg ship.  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves that people forget the “Home” part of home networking.

So, you want to set up a basic home network?  You’re going to get a modem (probably) and then some form of wireless router.  Those are the most basic network components there are.  And you’ll probably string them together, along with anything else that connects to them.  Congratulations!  You’ve done it!  And your desk probably looks like this:

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Ugh, you weren’t planning on that, huh?  When you sat down to try and connect your PC, Roku, and digital blender to the internetz, it didn’t sink in just how many wires were going to be involved, did it?  Well, maybe you get a bit OCD, and clean it up, so it looks like this:

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Oh, now that IS better!  Nice job!  But I’m going to suggest it could be better.  Would you like to see my router?  here it is:

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No, I’m not being a smartass.  That’s actually my modem and router.  Or rather, if you walked into my house and asked where they were, that’s where I’d point.  What you’re looking at is the ceiling of my home, right above which (in the attic) I have my networking equipment set up.  The point is, there’s no real reason for those devices to be visible.  Nobody wants to see them, and believe me, they won’t get lonely.  If I have an actual problem with the modem or router that requires me to actually touch them, it’s just a quick trip up the stairs to see them.  In the past year, that’s happened exactly once.  It’s time to stop treating routers like they’re an art object, and start treating them like you treat your hot water heater or breaker box.

Setting Up a Hidden Home Network

  1. Start early, preferably before you sign up with an ISP.  Think about where you could put a modem/router that would keep it out of the way.  Stop thinking in terms of desks, floors, and bookshelves.  Start thinking about attics, basements, and closets.  Remember, the only time you need to look at your equipment is when there’s a problem, so an out-of the way spot is ideal.  When the tech arrives at the house to install your service, YOU tell THEM where you want the equipment.  It’s their job to make it happen.  But of course, please be polite… their job can be a crappy one.
  2. If you’ve already had your modem installed, and made the mistake of having the modem on your desk or some other unsightly place, it’s not too late.  Lots of times, it’s really easy to pull the cable to another part of the house.  Or, if you don’t want to do that, call your ISP back and ask to have a “Cable Relocation” done.  They’ll probably charge you about $100, but the desk space you get back will be more than worth it.
  3. Don’t assume that having the router in an out-of-the-way spot will mean an over-reliance on WiFi.  You can (and should) install network jacks throughout the home and tie them back to the attic or closet that hides your router.  We’ll explore just how to do this in another blog entry.
  4. Although you do want the equipment out of sight, NEVER set it somewhere where it can’t be reached again without breaking something.  Putting the modem in a cabinet is okay, sealing it inside a wall is not.  Yes, people have done that.  No, the results were not pretty.

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