From Networking your computers to Remote Viewing your Home CCTV Network

Many of us now have a home Wi-Fi networks, which means we can access the internet from any room in the house. Convenient and yet this might be barely scratching the surface of what’s possible. My goal is to help you unleash the potential of the Wired World in your home. This guide will show you how to better use what you already have. So, for example, without spending a penny you can share files between computers and print wirelessly from your laptop.

If you are prepared to invest in some extra kit, though, things just get better. A NAS drive is a worthwhile addition to your wireless network, as we’ll demonstrate. While you probably think of a Wi-Fi network as a computing resource, its potential goes far beyond. We’ll also look at how you can use your network for home-entertainment and -automation. In particular, we’ll explain how to stream audio around the house, control your home-entertainment system from a phone or tablet, and even keep an eye on what’s occurring via CCTV cameras. If need be you can power the entire thing using your Solar Energy System.

1. You can Share your internet Bandwidth

If you’re new to networking, your PC may be connected with an ethernet cable to a Wi-Fi router and you have yet to take advantage of wireless connectivity in the home. As a first step, we’ll explain how to wirelessly access the internet on a laptop.

If you’re going to switch on wireless internet in your home, you should be aware that the signal may also be accessible to your neighbors. Allowing others to piggyback on your internet connection can slow it down, and it can open access to your personal files. Our Security Software can protect you entirely from this from outsiders or even hackers.

Modern laptops have Wi-Fi built in. If yours doesn’t, USB adaptors that add this functionality are very cheap and easy to find. Most such adaptors support the current 802.11n wireless standard, but will be backwards-compatible with older 802.11g. If your router is an 802.11g model then consider upgrading for faster wireless performance. See our guide to Wi-Fi standards for an explanation of these terms.

2. Share resources between PCs

The most common use for a wireless network is to share resources such as files and printers between computers. There are several methods of achieving this, but the easiest solution is to use Homegroup. Setting up a Homegroup in Windows 7 or 8 is straightforward, and doesn’t require additional hardware. See How to create a Homegroup network in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Having set up a Homegroup, it’s easy to share or un-share folders, documents and printers between your PCs. To share a folder or document, simply right-click it in Windows Explorer and select Share with from the drop-down menu. You should then choose to share it with Homegroup, opting to provide either read-only or read-and-write access.

To share a printer, select ‘Devices and Printers’ from the Start menu, double-click the printer you want to share, then click ‘Display Printer Properties’. Select the Sharing tab in the Properties dialog box for your printer and choose ‘Share this printer’.

You should now be able to see in Windows Explorer any files and printer(s) you’ve shared on other computers in the Homegroup (or on the network if you’re not using Homegroup).


3. Access your files via a NAS drive

NAS stands for network-attached storage and is, in essence, a hard disk that is connected to a network rather than a PC. You can share files and folders on any PC connected to a wireless network, but using a NAS provides a better solution in several respects.

First, if you have computers and mobile devices running various operating systems, a NAS could share files with them all – including over the internet. Without a NAS, sharing files among these devices would be not only time-consuming, but potentially impossible (with certain combinations of OS).

Second, using a NAS means you don’t have to leave switched on 24/7 any PC that contains shared files. Although the NAS itself will be constantly powered on, it is designed to operate in this manner. A NAS drive will consume significantly less power than your desktop PC, which is good for the environment and your wallet.

Most NAS drives can also download files from the internet, and have other functions including a print server, which will be accessible to any PC at any time.

Third, storing all your files – documents, videos, photos, music and more – on a NAS drive provides one central repository, rather than you having to remember on which machine a particular file is stored.

NAS devices cost from as little as 3,000P, although you tend to get what you pay for in terms of capacity, performance and features.

A decent NAS device that includes a terabyte of storage will cost 4,000P-plus. In addition to pre-built NAS drives with a certain storage capacity, it’s possible to buy the enclosure alone, then add your own hard disks. Synology’s DiskStation range is particularly good in this respect.

4. Print & scan

Moving around a printer or scanner to use it with your various PCs is a hassle you can do without. Much better is to have a printer or scanner connected to your wireless network so that it can be accessed by any computer. There are various ways in which this is possible.

You could connect via USB the printer to any PC that’s part of the Windows Homegroup or network. However, to print from another PC, this host machine will need to be switched on. This wastes energy. A much better solution is to use a NAS drive that has a print server, if you have one.

Alternatively, you can directly attach the printer to your wireless router – either by using an ethernet cable or wirelessly, if your printer supports that option. Most printers these days support ethernet, which is particularly useful in office environments, while built-in wireless connectivity is becoming increasingly popular.

If you’re planning to buy a new printer, it may make sense to look for an all-in-one model that includes print and scan facilities, plus built-in Wi-Fi. So-called multifunction printers allow you to scan as well as print wirelessly. When you connect an older all-in-one device (which doesn’t have built-in networking) to a NAS drive or router’s USB port, it may not be possible to use its scanning component.

5. Sync your stuff

If you have more than one computer you’ll probably want to ensure that your music, photos and documents are kept in sync between them.

Various cloud-based services provide this functionality and will work between different devices, such as a Windows laptop and an Android smartphone or tablet.

This is handy if you spend a lot of time travelling but, when you’re at home, it doesn’t make sense to transfer data from your laptop to the internet and then back to a smartphone in the next room. After all, this could unnecessarily eat into your data allowance. The solution is to synchronise files across your Wi-Fi network.

There are lots of options, but one solution you might like to consider is Android Manager Wi-Fi. This free app allows the manual transfer of files as well as automatic synchronisation. Download the Windows component from Mobile Action and the Android app from Google Play and you’ll be in business.

In the same way that you can synchronise your documents via a Wi-Fi network, most e-readers allow you to download books without involving your PC by directly connecting to the home Wi-Fi network.

It’s also possible to sync and back up your mobile devices via Wi-Fi. To set this up with an iOS device, simply connect it to your computer via USB, then, in iTunes, select the device and check the ‘Sync via Wi-Fi’ box. It’s largely the same process for Windows Phones, which sync with the Zune software.

6. Monitor your home

If you want to keep an eye on your home or office, your Wi-Fi network can be the key to your security needs. By adding a CCTV camera connected to a remote access DVR, you’ll be able to monitor your property either from a device on the same Wi-Fi network or via the web.

Most cameras can send you an email if motion is detected. Although wired network cameras are available, the best and most trusted system is still wired analog cameras.  If you want a high-quality picture with sound, you should budget for at least 3,000 P per camera with high definition resolution. For extra features, such as motorized pan and tilt (even zoom), prepare to spend much more.