DSL Modem Guide: The Basics

dsl modem roadmapDSL Modems were high-tech devices to start with when they were introduced, but new features are being added to them all the time.  These new features may seem overwhelming, but this guide is here to help you make sense out of the modern DSL modem:

Ethernet Hub

Ethernet is the dominant form of wired networking, and is generally the most accepted and widely available type of connection for wired devices ranging from netbooks & gaming consoles up to full-blown desktops and servers.  Prior to the integration of an Ethernet router or hub into the heart of modern DSL modems, most DSL modems could only be plugged into one device.  If someone wished to share their connection, that device had to be a router, hub, or a server, and some technical knowhow would have to be part of the equation.  There would also need to be the purchase of a secondary device (at a bare minimum) which would consume electricity and, add another layer of troubleshooting.  That additional troubleshooting would usually be refused by carrier technical support staff, but that is slowly changing.  Now the support for third party is generally there, but it is often not free.

DSL Modems & WiFi Standards

While Ethernet is the dominant form of wired networking, it is wireless that most people are paying the most attention to these days.  No longer is our world one where we are tethered to our devices, now we are free to roam and enjoy DSL based broadband so long as we are within WiFi distance of a modem with either an integrated WiFi radio or a modem connected to a WiFi router.  The WiFi integration is becoming increasingly common, not only for its usefulness but also as way to push new modem sales.

Consider the fact that modems are outdated every few years based not just on broadband technologies, but also based on new wireless standards that are growing by leaps and bounds.  Each modem purchase tends to generate a call to the DSL carrier, and that call is an upsell opportunity that often goes something like this: Oh wow, you have a new WiFi speed on that modem…want to upgrade your DSL plan to catch up?

Wireless Protected Setup

One of the most interesting and perhaps useful WiFi-related technologies to start with routers and make its way into modems is the WPS (Wireless Protected Setup) button.  Pressing this button and synching it with a supported device allows the access codes to be transmitted safely and securely over a very short window of time in a highly encrypted manner.  The long and the short is that you can use a WPS button to easily transmit network access credentials without having to actually share them and make them public or even know them!

DSL Modems With USB Ports

USB, or Universal Serial Bus, is a type of connector that is used by a wide range of devices.  Most DSL modems that support USB hubs offer the ability to share a stored hard drive or printer.  The shared storage device is a very interesting option, but the printer or multifunction device may become an even bigger story in the future.

The shared storage usually lets and entire network of users access a storage device such as a USB key or external hard drive so long as they are granted access through the modem’s internal software and the device is not locked in any other way.  Newer modems at the very high end of the spectrum or even allowing ISPs to integrate that storage into the user’s home page and/or cloud accounts.  For instance, imagine signing up for ABCDSL.com and then plugging your external hard drive full of family pictures and setting it up so that those pictures are available for you or the world to see at www.ABCDSL.com/youraccount/ or something similar to that.

Printers and multifunction devices are similarly available over the local area network, but their utility when connected to the Internet gives them a very fax-like capability.  As new software is developed the days of the fax machine and its annoying screech are likely to be nearing the end with a sudden swiftness.  While we might miss the fact, the modem-connected printer or multifunction device seems like a major advance for the home office.