Powerline networks are not new and certainly not something glamorous but they are faster and more reliable than they used to be. Recent innovations just might make powerline networks worth a look, particularly in the small office/home office market. In the past, security, has been an issue but today, powerline network security issues are being addressed by using data encryption to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing the network.
My product of choice is the: Netgear Wall-Plugged Ethernet Bridge Model XE102
Homeplug networks basically turn any electrical outlet into a Home Network Connection. It is a simple way to bring the Internet to any room in your home. You plug the powerline adapter into an electrical outlet and allow it to use your existing electrical wiring to give your complete home access to your Cable/DSL broadband connection. This means you do not need to install expensive wiring or cabling into the walls. Through these devices your whole family can surf the Web, participate in online gaming, send and receive e-mail, and share files and printers, all from different rooms at the same time. A powerline network is probably one of the most uncomplicated setups and is very quick to install.
Powerline networks use existing 110V electrical outlets in your home. The Netgear XE102 has something called automatic rate adaption which chooses the best data rate depending on the level of interference caused by other electrical appliances. It is fully compatible with 10 Mbps or 10/100 Mbps Ethernet products. At this point all these products give data rates of up to 14 Mbps. It is suggested that you do not plug the homeplug devices into a powerstrip due to it hampering its use and degrading network performance but instead go directly into the wall socket. The good news is it does work across multiple phases and circuit breakers to provide complete coverage in your home. At this point the product ensures privacy and security over the Homeplug network by using 56-Bit DES Data Encryption to protect your network from others. Something not perfect but more than acceptable at this point in time.
Powerline Ethernet runs over your home power lines using a protocol called Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) to arbitrate the shared medium. The XE102 Wall-Plugged Ethernet Bridge provides the option to set your own unique encryption network password. This is a case sensitive password and different from the device password. To change the network password and help protect yourself from others even though it is unlikely they will get into your network, you should install the Netgear Powerline Encryption software and set a unique network password. I suggest you use a very secure password. Follow the manual located on the CD on how to change the powerline network password. It is suggested that you connect to each adapter directly and change the password even though you can do a remote change on all devices on your network. You may need to update your devices system software if you got an older version of the device to make it work with the new ones.
Netgear makes the XE104 which is a powerline network switch providing four ports. Additionally you can purchase a Netgear WGX102 54 Mbps Wall-Plugged Wireless Range Extender which will allow you to use your powerline network to extend your wireless connection.
I suggest disconnecting the homeplug powerline network when not in use to make sure there is no chance of hacks if you live in an apartment complex. Or at least disconnecting the network cable to remove your main computers from the devices access. You could also put the powerline adapter on your first segment where you keep your wireless connection and protect your main computers via a second segmented network and firewall.