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Internet equipment can play a crucial role in the quality of your online experience. No matter which delivery method you choose, hardware can either hinder or maximize its potential. Here’s a primer on how to make the most of your experience.

What is a modem?

It’s a device that both modulates and demodulates.

What does that mean? A modem can change and send data from a computer through a telephone line. It can also retrieve data from the internet through that same line. It’s a powerhouse connection to the web. A modem connects a subscriber to their internet service provider.

What is a router?

Routers decipher data from your modem and deliver it to your computer, phone or other device wirelessly. A router can connect two computers to each other, or to the internet. Phone connections can also run through routers. A broadband router can connect your phone to the internet for Voice over IP calls.

A router provides convenient, wireless internet access for connected devices. If you want a Wi-Fi network, try…

Wireless DSL/broadband routers

You can create a wireless network in your home with a wireless router. It’s a good idea to secure the network to prevent unauthorized access. Hackers and identity thieves can use unauthorized connections to a network for criminal activity.

Network encryption methods can protect your network from roaming devices. When your Wi-Fi connection is encrypted, users need a password to access the signal – or any files on your network.

How to pick the best router/modem

From tablets and smartphones to gaming consoles, what will you connect to the internet?

ISPs usually offer a free or low-cost router that’ll likely fit your network needs. But router upgrades can strengthen your wireless signal for media-rich activity like streaming.

BAND |A single-band router will cost less, but might have to compete with other devices in your home that operate on the same radio band. Conflicting machines could include Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, and wireless phones.

FEATURES | Routers come with an array of features that fit a range of uses. One universal feature: A router of a minimum four 10/100/1000 gigabit Ethernet ports. Multiple ports allow you to connect wired devices, plus hook up a printer to be used across the network.

Other features to consider:

A Guest network grants limited access to your network. Guests can access a signal through an SSID and password unique to the secondary network. Your primary password is different, and your personal files aren’t accessible.

Parental controls restrict network access for specific users to specified hours and days.

Quality of Service options will rank certain web activities over others. Streaming video or online gaming gets priority for bandwidth over downloading documents. This would help ensure the game or video isn’t subject to as much buffering.

PROTOCOLS | Wireless Ethernet uses 802.11 protocols to send and receive data. Protocol 802.11ac offers the widest channel bandwidth (as high as 160Hz). It also comes with a feature known as beamforming, which directs a Wi-Fi signal to a device instead of broadcasting it for better strength.

The value of fast internet equipment

Finding an internet service provider is just the start. Making informed choices for your hardware will help you make the most of your connection.