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Page last updated: 2nd Oct 2006 - 18:00

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Woody's guide to getting Broadband


Read this first:

The Sanity Clause

This guide is long and ugly, but never-the-less, if you are serious about wanting to install Broadband, you should read it all and follow the links.

This guide has been written by a guy who is a real IT Manager - but you shouldn't be impressed by that.... I have researched,  purchased and currently use, all the products and services featured in this guide. I still recommend everything that I feature, and if I had to do it all again, I still would - using exactly the same steps as I list below. In fact, I just have installed Broadband for my Mum - and if your Mum is like mine, you will know that it is important to buy stuff that is easy to use and doesn't break, in order to stop her from continuously calling me up (she just emails me all of the time - now she has broadband ....).

Important Notes:

1. I have no connection to any of the companies who produce the service or products listed, neither do I receive any financial gain from recommending them - except, if you refer me for the PlusNet service - I get 25p off my next ADSL bill in 12 months time, which is kind of cool - and it's no skin off your nose.

2. This is a guide only, and not to be relied on. It is only designed to be used by people based in the UK and it is only designed to enable you to install the best price/performance Broadband access on a home PC - that is -  a PC that you own, NOT a notebook PC that is owned by your company (or the one I work for) and supplied to enable you to work for the company.

3. It is quite easy to buy an "all-in-one" Broadband package that includes the broadband modem. Most of these modems connect to your PC via USB. This is a bad idea, if you want to connect your company Notebook to Broadband, as it invariably means installing, on your company Notebook, extra drivers and software - and a lot of companies and IT departments won't be so cool about that - especially if you screw up something and have to take your notebook to them to be fixed.......

The solution recommended, will, for most people, probably enable them to connect their company provided Notebook PC to Broadband without installing any additional software or otherwise changing configuration settings. This is a really good thing (particularly, if you work for the same company as me). It will also allow you to concurrently connect more than one PC (if you are a 2 or more PC family) to the Internet via Broadband. In addition, a USB ADSL Modem will, for most products, only allow you to connect one PC to the Internet at the same time. The additional cost of an Ethernet ADSL router is really marginal (the router I recommend below costs 30.90 inc VAT and Del - at this price, you are unlikely to break the bank, which is why I have chosen it).

However, please still check with your IT Support and/or Company Security Manager before connecting your company notebook to Ethernet Broadband.

Note: that for the purpose of this quick guide, broadband is ADSL - you can find out more about ADSL/Broadband and the various Broadband ISP's here.

The bottom line .....

The total cost is 41.73 for installation - which includes all the hardware you need and initial ISP first month fee - followed by (from) 14.99 per month for up to 8MB Broadband Service.

Note: All prices on this page include VAT and Delivery (see date at top of page for when prices were last checked).

If you are in a hurry, just follow these 9 steps and you will have broadband installed and operational using the best price/performance Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Broadband kit I can find. For each step, it's not mandatory, but there are Top Tips and additional info in the right hand column.

Are you ready? Then let's go .....


Step 1
Check that your home PC has an Ethernet network adapter installed - as this is what you are going to be connecting Broadband to. Most do. If it doesn't you will need to buy one - see link to the right.
PCI Ethernet card for Desktop PC

Note: This one costs 3.68from eBuyer. Just add it to the eBuyer order for the ADSL Router you will need (in Step 5 below).
Step 2
Click the Broadband availability checker and type in your phone number to check that you can get Broadband at your house (or wherever you want to put it). Broadband Availability Checker
Top Tip!
If your number is shown as possibly too far from the exchange for Broadband, and your request for installation does fail, it could be that your installation failed due to a BT database, rather than a real line check. In that case, call PlusNet (or the ISP you intend to use) and ask them if they will do a "Manual Order" for you. Not all ISP's will do manual orders - which attempt to get a BT engineer to visit and actually check your line for ADSL capability, rather than just a database.


Note
From 1st April 2006, BT state that most of their exchanges have been upgraded to MaxDSL (see STOP PRESS below).  The broadband availability checker has therefore now been upgraded to give an estimate of the max speed you are likely to get  if you buy broadband from an ISP providing MaxDSL connectivity.
Step 3
If your house is within range of a Broadband enabled exchange, click the flashing PlusNet logo to the right,  to sign up with PlusNet for the service.

Note: I recommend PlusNet because I use them and because I think they provide the best service for the lowest price. However, you are free to buy ADSL from whoever you like. Please click here for a more detailed explanation of what you ought to consider in selecting a Broadband ISP (Internet Service Provider).

STOP PRESS 02/10/2006

The Sunday Times has a very interesting article on the "challenges" people have been having with combined telephone and broadband deals such as TalkTalk, Orange and NTL etc. Interestingly, the article recommends Plusnet and says that Plusnet also top Uswitch's survey of ISP's. Click here to read the Sunday Times article.

Up to 8Mb broadband from 9.99 per month. Free setup now available - terms apply. PlusNet broadband.


STOP PRESS 06/04/2006

BT have now upgraded nearly all of their exchanges to "MaxDSL". This is new technology that automatically and dynamically configures your line to run at it's fastest - up to 8MB for those closest to the exchange, and for even those folks furthest away, probably more than 1.5MB. Plusnet, as standard, are now signing new customers onto MaxDSL at no extra cost.

Sign up for the package that most suits you (I reckon the "Broadband Plus" product for 14.99 a month would be appropriate for 80% of folk just starting out) and choose the "No cost USB Modem" version. You won't be using this - but it's always good to have a free spare.

If you sign up for Plusnet by clicking on the banner above, you can also sign up for WiFi (wireless) internet access from any BT OpenZone access point at a cost of 7p(ex VAT) per minute. There is no additional subscription fee - just pay for the minutes you use.

Note: Not all Broadband ISP's and routers support VPN connections - such as Microsoft VPN, Aventail and Neoteris. The products on this page have been tested as working with the hardware recommended in this guide in combination with Broadband from PlusNet. However, there are random reports (none clear enough to quote) that Neoteris does not work with all Broadband ISP's - I'm not sure why. (Tiscali users also report particular routing problems and  Neoteris also doesn't work with new.net ).

If you are intending to run a VPN connection over Broadband other than PlusNet, you should check with your ISP that this is supported.

Step 4
PlusNet will email you when ADSL is activated on your line, but  you can watch the progress of your order on the PlusNet web site using the details that PlusNet will email you as a result of your order.

Once ADSL is activated,  you should then go to step 5. and 6.
Top Tip!
You can only get Broadband if you have a BT line (although if you don't have a BT line, your phone service provider may be able to offer you something similar) and if you register with BT to manage your phone account online (it's a free service), you can watch the status of  BT's installation of  your Broadband connection.
Register for BT online account management

Do not go to steps 5. and 6. until you have ADSL activated - otherwise, you might find you buy the kit - which, you are stuck with if, for whatever reason, BT can't enable your phone line for ADSL.

Step 5
Buy this Safecom SART2-4115 Router for 30.90 delivered. You can find out more about this router in the Safecom SART2-4115 user Forum.

This router has 5 Ethernet network ports - one to connect to your home PC, and the other 4 to connect to any other PC's in your household to provide Broadband to them also.

UPDATE: There is now a cheaper 2 port (1USB and 1 ethernet port) version of this router, the Safecom SART2-4112 for 27.34 delivered. (But given it is only 3 quid cheaper than the 5 port router above, it's hardly worth bothering with unless you can get a better price as sometimes, ebuyer do good deals on it)

Note 1

The Safecom routers above are a "wired" ADSL router, that is, you need to connect your work notebook and home PC's to it using cable. However, for 52.00 you can buy the wireless version of this router, Safecom
SWART2-54125 This has the same "wired" functionality as the Safecom SAMR-4114 above, but in addition, adds the capability of connecting via wireless at speeds up to 54MB (for geeks, it's an ADSL2/2+ 802.11G wireless router).

If your company currently doesn't let you connect your work notebook to networks via wireless, it's probably only going to be a matter of time before that policy changes, so if you can afford the extra, I would recommend buying a wireless router
. It will be slightly more complex to set up, but there is loads of help and advice out on the internet in the 
SWART2-54125 forum - and of course, it comes with a manual - but you probably won't read that, will you .......


Stop Press 02/10/2006

The SWART2-54125 Safecom router seems to be out of stock. I have done a bit of research and it seems that (although I don't have any experience of it myself) the Netgear DG834G v3 is being highly recommended. Note that this is the V3 version - which contains a different ADSL chipset - the TI AR7.  ADSL modems with the TI chipset seem to be getting faster synchronisation speeds on Max DSL (the type of broadband you get from Plusnet). I can vouch for this. I don't have a Netgear router, but a different type with a TI chipset - with which I get a 0.5MB speed increase over my Dlink router. You can currently get the Netgear DG834G for 55.88 and free delivery from eBuyer.  Customers are reporting that eBuyer are shipping the V3 version of this router - but beware, your mileage may vary.



Note 2
If you are connecting more than one PC to Broadband, you will need one of these CAT5 cables for each PC in addition to the first PC that you are going to connect. Note: That these cables come in various lengths, the one pointed to is 3 Metres, but you can choose the lengths that are appropriate for your own installation.


Note: The Safecom SAMR-4114/5 router was previously  the the Origo ASR-8400.

For more information on ADSL routers,  product and ISP reviews - check out ADSLguide.org.uk

Note: Not all routers support VPN. The hardware recommended in this woodygems guide has been tested as working fine with  MS VPN, Aventail and Neoteris. Before purchasing different hardware, be sure to check that that your intended purchase does support VPN (Aventail and Neoteris etc) functionality if you need it.  
Step 6
Buy an ADSL Nation XF-1e filter from this page. You really need a filter because it allows you to make phone calls while you have broadband connected. Most filters are really crap - this is the only one that won't give you problems - i.e. it will allow you to make and receive phone calls at the same time as you are surfing the Internet with Broadband without interference.

Note: If you sign up for Plusnet by clicking on the PlusNet icon above, you don't need to buy this filter. The USB modem that comes free when you join PlusNet also includes two filters - which  while not as good as the ADSL Nation filters, are probably good enough for most folk.
Top Tip!
You need a micro filter because it stops the higher ADSL carrier frequencies - that will now be sharing your voice line - from bleeding into your voice calls and sounding a bit like conventional modem interference. You can buy much cheaper micro filters, but you get what you pay for, and the furthest from the exchange you are, the more amplification your adsl modem needs to make to the signal - increasing the chance that it will break through into your voice calls if you use a cheap filter.

Step 7
When it all arrives, plug it together, and go and get ALL of the (free) software products listed below and install on your Home PC NOT ON YOUR COMPANY PROVIDED PC - UNLESS YOUR COMPANY TELLS YOU IT IS OK - before you connect your home PC to the Internet. Top Tip!
OK, so this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. You can't download these tools unless you are connected to the Internet. Let's just say that if you connect to the Internet before installing this stuff - it's your risk.....don't say I didn't warn you - just be quick.
Step 8
If you do not have an antivirus program running on your home PC, then you shouldn't connect to broadband internet. Most people have Norton, Symantec or McAfee etc installed when they buy a PC, but then the licence runs out - and so do the Antivirus updates that keep the software current and able to detect the latest viruses.....

If you do not have an antivirus program, or your existing antivirus program is no longer being updated, one of the best Antivirus tools is Avast - and it's free for home use!


Step 9a A software firewall. This one is ZoneAlarm, it's not the best, but it's the easiest to configure personal firewall that you can get for free. You need to appreciate that I am trying to save you money....
If you are slightly more geeky, I think that the free Kerio Personal Firewall which is probably technically better and works with Voice Over IP (VOIP) applications (free telephone calls using the internet), but less intuitive to configure.
Top Tip!
A good site that reviews personal firewalls and has tools that can remotely test yours - to see if it really is repelling invaders, is www.pcflank.com

Step 9b A tool that will remove "SpyWare" that sometimes gets installed while browsing the Internet. This tool is called "Adaware" and it's free. Top Tip!
Don't forget to update the Adaware database (once you have installed Adaware) by clicking the web update icon (while connected to the Internet) which is the world and magnifying glass icon, second from right at the top of the Adaware window.

Step 9c Here's another "Spyware" removing tool. It's called "Spybot" and again it's free. You should use both Adaware and Spybot in conjunction with each other. Top Tip!
Don't forget to update the Spybot database (once you have installed Spybot) by clicking the "search for web updates" button (while connected to the Internet) on the main Spybot screen.
Step 9d This is real belt and braces, but get and install this alternate Spyware detector Bazooka Adware that is rapidly gaining a following. It found Spyware on my PC that Spybot and Adaware didn't.


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