The internet has completely transformed the world. The vast international network that connects computers and other devices the world over has changed the way we work, play, and socialize.

But the huge network out there is reliant on another, smaller network: yours. To be truly useful to you in most situations, the internet needs to be able to reach you without your home. Our local networks, including wired and Wi-Fi options, are what unite our smart TVs with Netflix and allow us to transfer files from device to device.

Your Vital Personal Network

Not everyone understands how important their home network is. When most people have trouble with their internet connection speeds, for example, they’re apt to blame it on their internet service provider. But that’s not necessarily fair: Sometimes, your internet connection is speedy, but your local network is not.

If your wireless router is slow and weak, then no amount of super-fast internet bandwidth can help you. No matter how fast things can go between your router and the larger internet out there, your top speed will still be however fast things move between your device and your wireless router.

That’s why great wireless routers can make such a difference. When you’re no longer bottle-necking your streaming videos and other internet uses with a lousy and slow Wi-Fi network, you may suddenly find that your internet deal is fast enough after all. Powerful modern options include mash router systems. Mesh routers use multiple devices to blanket your home in Wi-Fi that works wherever you need it to.

Securing Your Home’s Network

When your devices communicate with the internet, your network router stands guard. The IP address that your devices show off on the internet is a “public” IP address. Behind that IP address, though, are all of the devices that you can use to access your router (and, therefore, the internet beyond it). It’s very important that your home’s network remain secure, even when you’re communicating out on the unsecured Internet.

So, protect your network! Make sure that your router firmware is up to date. Use a strong password and change it from time to time (change the network name sometimes, too). Offer guests a different network (with a different password), rather than advertising the login information for the one you use. Finally, consider using a VPN to make your internet use more private.

Wire Transfers

Wi-Fi networks are convenient, but they have their drawbacks, too. With all else being held equal, a Wi-Fi network is virtually always going to give you slower transfer speeds than its wired counterpart. A strong antenna and a fast router can help, but there’s nothing that will make that gif load quite as fast as it would with a wired connection.

For most purposes, this doesn’t matter much. But with streaming and other activities that use lots of data, you’ll want fast internet speeds on your network. The key to better Netflix streaming might just be to connect your Roku device or Smart TV to your router with an Ethernet cable. Not every device has an Ethernet jack, but many do. You can also consider upgrading to a fancier Roku or getting a dongle for your smartphone in order to add Ethernet ports to your device collection.

Life in the Cloud

It’s crucial to keep your home’s network secure. The internet at large isn’t usually a very safe place!

With that said, though, the internet can sometimes be one of the safest places to store valuable things. What we’re talking about here is secure cloud storage, which uses internet-connected storage space to house your files. With cloud storage, you can access your stuff from just about anywhere. Your photos and other files won’t be public like they are on Facebook: Cloud storage solutions keep them encrypted and secure so that only you can get your hands on them.

And these sorts of services rely on both your home network and the internet at large. One popular digital photo manager combines a device for your home network with cloud storage beyond it, making it easy to securely store and share photos from your home and while on the go. You can snap photos with your camera or smartphone, then upload them to secure digital spaces. That means that there’s no need to fill up a memory card or plug stuff into USB ports.