Setting up wireless Internet access for your home or home office may sound daunting, but with careful attention to detail and a little patience, it can be done in an afternoon.

First, decide whether wireless Internet access is right for your home or office. There are several benefits to wireless access. For example, it can allow you to use the Internet from anywhere in the office or house without being tied to a network cable. It also allows you to connect multiple devices (computers, iPads, gaming consoles) to the network.

However, wireless has some disadvantages as well. Some of these include setup, children’s access to the Internet without adult supervision, and freeloading neighbors.

Those who have children in the home need to be particularly aware of security issues related to wireless. The first rule of Internet safety is that children should always use the Internet in a public area where parents can easily see what they are doing. With wireless, children can access the Internet from their iPod Touches, iPads, and Netbooks, and parents are none the wiser unless they install filters to limit Internet access.

To set up wireless access, you will first need a high-speed or broadband Internet connection. High-speed Internet access is probably available through your local telephone company, cable company or satellite provider. If high-speed Internet access is not available in your area, contact your e-beat representative (http://srdc.msstate.edu/ebeat). Your representative can help you find broadband resources for your area.

Next, you will need a wireless router. There are several types of wireless routers: wireless N, wireless G, and wireless 802.11b/g/n. The term 802.11 refers to the group of individuals tasked to oversee the development of a standardized wireless platform back in the late 1990s.

The terms 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n refer to the speed at which data can be transferred over the network using an unregulated radio frequency.

The 802.11g network supports up to 54 Mbps. The newest wireless network is the 802.11n; it can transfer 140 Mbps of data. You can think of the 802.11b network as a slow cooker, the 802.11g as an oven and the 802.11n as a microwave. A wireless router that is labeled 802.11b/g/n is new but will work with older devices.

Once you have your wireless router, plug the high-speed Internet, or Ethernet, cable coming from the modem into the first port on the back of the wireless router. This first port is labeled “Internet” or “data” on most routers. Leave the remaining four ports empty. At this point, it is important to follow the instructions that came with the wireless router. Each may vary a little.

After you have followed the instructions for setup, be sure to configure the wireless router. When configuring the wireless router, give the wireless network a unique name that others in your household can remember. The network name is also referred to as the SSID (service set identifier) and is the public name of the network.

Next you will need to enable the WPA, or Wireless Protected Access. By protecting your wireless router with an encryption key, you ensure that other people will not be able to access your wireless network. Older routers may need to update firmware to use WPA or WPA2. When setting up the router, you will be prompted to provide a passphrase that when applied will generate a set of keys. These keys can be put into other devices so that those devices can use your wireless network.

Wireless networks are flexible, but they must be used carefully. Be sure to decide how wireless will be used in your home before introducing it.