What You Need to Know About Wireless Networking, Part 2

Luckily for us computer users, Apple has created three easy to use networking tools.  These products, Airport Express, Airport Extreme and Time Capsule, can be used in the home or office setting.  In this article I will go through what each of these products offer.

Continuing from my previous article that detailed the basics of wireless networking, I will delve into more details on specific Apple products and what advanced features they offer in this installment.

All three products seamless integrate with Mac OS X as well as PC or Linux computers. 

As with all Apple designs, these products are pretty much plug and play right out of the box, and you will have your home or office network set up in just minutes!

Here is a comparison rundown with some brief notes of the units:

Airport Express

  • Networking Standards: A/B/G/N
  • Hard Wired Ports: None
  • Printer and Network Drive Sharing: Yes, for printer only
  • Dual Band: No
  • Miscellaneous features: Wireless iTunes support
  • PC and Mac: Yes

Airport Extreme

  • Networking Standards: A/B/G/N
  • Hard Wired Ports: 3 Gigabit Ports
  • Printer and Network Drive Sharing: Yes, for printer OR network drive
  • Dual Band: Yes
  • Miscellaneous features: AppleTV support
  • PC and Mac: Yes

Time Capsule 500GB or 1TB:

  • Networking Standards: A/B/G/N
  • Hard Wired Ports: 3 Gigabit Ports
  • Printer and Network Drive Sharing: Yes, for printer OR network drive
  • Dual Band: Yes
  • Miscellaneous features: Built-in Hard Drive, Automatic Backups via Time Machine and AppleTV support
  • PC and Mac: Yes (No PC support for automatic backup)

Both Airport Extreme and Time Capsule can share 1 device at a time, so either a printer or an attached network drive, not both simultaneously.  Also, they both have Dual-Band radios, but can only support 1 radio signal at time, so you must choose between 2.4GHz or 5.0 GHz.

Airport Express Base Station with AirTunes
This product is great for apartments, small homes and offices.  It gives the user a cheap and efficient way to set up a wireless network in their home or office. 

You can also use the Airport Express as a range extender to help boost the signal of an already existing network in a larger house or office where you have some dead spots and weak wireless signal in certain areas. 

A nice feature of the Airport Express is AirTunes – you can plug a 1/8’’ cable into the Airport Express and into your receiver/stereo system, and you will be able to wireless stream songs from your iTunes to that receiver/stereo system.  Lastly, you can use the Airport Express to share a printer on your network.

Airport Extreme Base Station with Gigabit Ethernet
The Airport Extreme is a fully featured router.  This product is geared towards homes and offices with wireless and wired networking needs.  Unlike the Express model, you can use the Extreme model to share a printer or an attached network storage drive. 

Also, this model gives the user 3 Gigabit (hard wired) networking ports.  These come in handy when you need a reliable Internet connection, or a faster Internet connection.  The Extreme also works seamlessly with Apple TV (which will be described in detail in a future article). 

The Airport Extreme has several security options to protect your network and data.  Such security options include WPA/WPA2 and 128-bit WEP.

Time Capsule (500 GB or 1 TB)
Physically, this unit appears identical to the Airport Extreme Base station.  It shares the same features of the Extreme including Gigabit ports, USB shared device, Apple TV support, etc.  However, under the hood, this machine packs a 500 GB or a 1 TB hard drive! 

This frees up the 1 USB port to be used for a printer, allowing the network to now have a shared printer AND hard drive! Plus, you can pair Time Capsule with Time Machine and have automatic backups of your operating system, which includes all of your documents, files and pictures. 

This is a very powerful feature that will give extra protection and security, especially for small businesses.  In the past, you needed more technical knowledge to set up a NAS back up system, but Time Capsule and Time Machine make automatic backups a routine task for any home or small business network.

These backups will come in handy if a user deletes a file accidentally, or if the computer is stolen, broken or if the computer’s hard drive fails.  Data is key for a business owner, and Time Capsule provides a safe and secure means to backup data to avoid potential business disasters.

What wireless products or solutions do you use for your home or business?

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