Internet Basics Buying Guide
Getting Ready to Go Online
Bear the following in mind when shopping for the equipment you need to get the best out of the Internet:
- Work out what you want to do on the Internet and where you want to do it. Then, find out what the broadband and mobile Internet speeds are like in your area.
- Note that if broadband speeds in your area are slow, not even the best computers will make it faster.
- Shop around for the best Internet package or mobile broadband tariff as they can vary greatly. Think about how much time you plan to spend online when choosing.
- Wireless home networks allow you to get online with the freedom of wireless connectivity. Wireless networks are capable of blistering speeds, making it a great choice for every home.
What Can I Do On the Internet?
The answer to this question is simple: practically everything. Your Internet connection will give you access to a limitless supply of information, entertainment and possibility.
- Being online enables you to listen to your favourite music, play games and watch TV when it suits you. You can even join in the fun by uploading your own content to sites such as YouTube.
- The Internet is also brilliant at bringing you closer to the things, people and places you love. Social media, for example, can help you keep up with the events in your closest friends’ lives.
- Mobile Internet takes things even further. Applications like maps, mail and weather mean you always have all the information you need when you are out and about.
Getting Started with the Internet
How the Internet Works
Using the Internet is extremely straightforward; what goes on behind the scenes, however is much more complex.
- The Internet is essentially a vast network (web) of phone cables and satellite signals that connects you to the world. Packets of code are sent through this network. This code is then interpreted by a web browser to give you the site you see on your screen.
- The information that you access when you visit a website is actually stored on one of millions of computers (servers) throughout the world. Each server has a specific address. Each site stored on it also has its own unique identifier: a web address.
- Web pages contain shortcuts and links that lead to more related content, creating a web of connections that is easy to navigate. This is how you will find your way around the Internet.
What You Need to Get Online
Getting online is quick and painless. To start enjoying the best of the Internet, you will need three principal components:
- An Internet connection provided to you by an ISP (Internet service provider). There are numerous ISPs in Australia. Be sure to shop around for the deal that suits you.
- A modem or modem router. This converts the signal that comes down the phone line into code that your devices can use. Most ISPs will issue you with a modem router when you sign up.
- A desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Your choice between them should be dictated by what you plan to do with your device and where you expect to spend your time online i.e. at your desk or on the couch.
Plans and Costs
ISP and mobile broadband providers offer a wide range of tariffs and extras. It is important to work out how much data you need and what speeds are available in your area before signing up.
- When you are trying to establish how much data you will need, remember that 1GB equates to about 40 hours of surfing time.
- If you only intend to go online occasionally, you could save by opting for a plan that reflects your usage. If you want to stream films through services like Netflix, an unlimited data package can eliminate the risk of receiving a hefty bill.
- Always check broadband speeds and network coverage before you sign up. For example, registering for 4G mobile broadband in an area where there is only 3G coverage would be a waste.
Setting Up a Wireless Home Network
Home networks are easy-to-set up and hugely rewarding. They allow you to create an ecosystem of connected devices and enjoy the best of the Internet without the restrictions of wires.
- The most important piece of equipment in any home network is the router or modem router. Routers traffic data to your devices through a wireless connection.
- Routers come with a host of different technology and functions. The fastest routers have wireless AC technology, which will allow you to stream high resolution video without lag. To enjoy this, however, your devices need to support wireless AC.
- Setting up a wireless home network can also help you communicate with wired devices, wirelessly. By connecting a portable hard drive to your router, for example, you can create a NAS (Network Assisted Storage) system
Navigating the Internet
A browser is a program that allows you to visit websites. You can use a browser to visit a specific site by entering its web address or find what you need through search engines like Google.
- Any device you buy will come with a default browser included. You can add another browser at any point. Web browsers are free to download.
- The most popular browsers are Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge. They each offer different features but you can relax in the knowledge that you will get a first-rate experience no matter which one you choose.
- Your choice of browser will be dictated by preference. However, we recommend choosing one with pop-up blocking, address bar search and compatibility with the apps and extensions you use.
Search engines are free to use and are accessed through your web browser. There is a handful of options to choose from. Google is, however, by far and away the most popular.
- All search engines feature a search bar into which you enter your search terms. Remember, search engines are so advanced now that you don’t even have to enter exactly what you are looking for to get the right results.
- Searches can be refined by content type (video, images etc.) and location so you can narrow down your search and find the page you need.
- It is worth noting that most search engine listings usually feature advertisements. These are demarcated in some form so you know which listing are adverts.
By combining Internet security software with sensible online behaviour, you can greatly reduce the threat of malware, scams and network attacks. Always remember the following:
- Purchase adequate Internet security. Anti-virus software protects your personal details, identifies suspicious sites and helps keep your computer running smoothly.
- Don't open email attachments from people you don't know. Don't leave your computer unattended when logged into your bank account or when you've provided credit card information on a shopping site.
- Valid sites that use encryption to securely transfer sensitive information show an icon of a padlock in the address bar or in the bottom right corner of the browser window.
Connecting with Others
Email or electronic mail is like sending a letter – except for the fact that it can travel to any corner of the globe in a matter of seconds and can be accessed via the web from anywhere.
- There are numerous email services (email clients) to choose from. Email clients give you access to emails you have received and sent as well as your contacts. You should never have to pay for a personal email account.
- Your choice of email client will always come down to preference. You may, however, benefit from opting for consistency throughout the online service you use. Gmail, for example, is only ever two clicks away on Google Chrome.
- Most email clients allow you to attach files like photos and videos to your emails. Be careful not to send files above 10MB as this can cause blockages at either end.
Skype and Instant Messaging
Programs like Skype, Viber and FaceTime help you keep in touch with loved ones in distant places for free. They allow you to communicate via text (instant messaging) and video chat so you can talk as though you were all in the same room.
- Services like Skype enable you to make voice and video calls to other members absolutely free of charge. You can even call international numbers at reduced rates.
- Most online phone services are free to download. Once downloaded, they present you with easy-to-follow steps so you can set up your account and start making calls with minimal hassle.
- Online phone services are also available for mobile devices so you can make calls to anyone in the world from anywhere so long as you have an Internet connection.
Social networks keep you connected to the things and the people you love. They allow you to share opinions, photos and videos with your friends — and the rest of the world.
- Each social media platform is best suited to a particular kind of use. For example, Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family, while LinkedIn is ideal for networking with other professionals.
- Some social media platforms are specifically designed for mobile devices. To get the best out of image and video sharing platform Instagram, for example, you need a smartphone or tablet.
- Social news sites such as Reddit help you engage with likeminded individuals and communities. They are also a great way to keep up to speed with events that don’t get reported via mainstream media outlets.
The Equipment You Need
Desktops, All-In-Ones and Laptops
Desktops, all-in-one computers and laptops offer unrivalled computing power and high levels of connectivity. They are ideal for anyone who needs a computer for professional use.
- The first choice you have to make is between an Apple, Linux or Windows computer. The good news is that they are all perfectly capable of bringing you to the best of the Internet.
- Shop according to how you will use your computer. For example, if you or your kids want to use it for online gaming, opt for a computer with a fast processor, dedicated graphics and lots of RAM.
- Your choice between a laptop and a desktop should be dictated by how you work and play. If you want to be able to work on-the-go, a laptop is the best option.
Smartphones and tablets take portability and productivity on-the-go to new heights. There is a wide range of products on the market. Consider the following when making your choice:
- There are 3 principal operating systems: iOS, Android and Windows. If you can’t decide which is best for you, opt for a tablet or smartphone made by the same manufacturer as your other devices as this will make for a seamless experience.
- If you are torn between the ultra-portability of a smartphone and the larger screen of a tablet, consider a phablet. Phablets sit in between the two and are great for viewing content and reviewing documents on-the-go.
- When choosing a smartphone or tablet, always check that it is compatible with the apps you use or want to start using.
Modem Routers and Routers
Routers and modem routers can have a big impact on the performance of your home wireless network. Bear the following in mind when upgrading your network equipment:
- If your network is often used by several devices at once, consider opting for a wireless router with multiple bands. Dual and tri-band routers allow your devices to communicate with the router on different frequencies so you can avoid data blockages during peak use.
- Shop for a router that suits how you use the Internet. If you would like to game online, for example, you may need a high-performance model (AC1600 or higher).
- If your ISP is charging you a rental fee for your modem, you could save money by buying your own modem router. Upgrading to the latest technology may also improve performance.
Mobile broadband allows you to enjoy an Internet connection on your laptop or tablet no matter where you are.
- USB modems are extremely easy-to-use. Simply plug your dongle into a USB port, install the software and start making the most of the Internet.
- Mobile WiFi (sometimes referred to as MiFi) works in much the same way as a USB modem except for the fact that it allows you to create your own secure WiFi hotspot wherever you need it.
- Choosing a provider requires some research. Every tariff is different so choose according to your browsing habits. Look out for things like data allowance, minimum contract length and how each provider allows you to monitor your usage.
While most laptops, tablets and smartphones come with a built-in webcam, many desktops do not. When shopping for a webcam for video chat or broadcasting, consider the following:
- It is advisable to shop for a webcam with an integrated microphone. Whilst this is not essential, it will save you the hassle of setting up and running a separate mic.
- If you would like to use your webcam to broadcast to sites like YouTube, shop for a webcam with the fastest frame rate that you can afford. 30fps will produce outstanding results.
- Webcams with glass lenses produce far superior results when compared with plastic lenses and should always be chosen by anyone in need of high-quality images.
Software makes your computer more useful. Choose from a huge range that includes productivity software like Microsoft Office and photo editing packages like Photoshop and get more done.
Enjoy the best visuals from your computer or devices with a new monitor. Choose from the likes of QHD, UHD and curved monitors to enjoy an improved viewing experience.
A new keyboard, mouse, headset or stylus can greatly improve the way you interact with your devices. Shop a wide range of products to find the ones that suit your particular needs.