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Can A Home Network Share Two Internet Connections?

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Question: Can A Home Network Share Two Internet Connections?
So-called multi-homing configurations allow one local area network to share multiple connections to external networks like the Internet. Some people wish to multi-home their home network, to share two Internet connections for increased speed and reliability. Can it be done?
Answer: Several options exist for sharing two Internet connections on a home network. However, they can be difficult to configure and are often limited in functionality.

Multi-Homing Dialup Network Connections

The concept of multi-homing home network connections has existed since the early days of the Web. Microsoft Windows XP multiple-device dialing, for example, effectively combined two dialup modem connections into one, increasing the overall Internet connection speed compared to a single modem. Techies often called this a shotgun modem or modem bonding configuration.

Multi-Homing Broadband Routers

The most direct method for utilizing two high-speed Internet connections on a home network is to install a router specifically designed for this purpose. Multi-homing routers feature two or more WAN interfaces for Internet links. They handle both the fail-over and load balancing aspects of connection sharing automatically.

However, these high-end products are designed for use by businesses rather than homeowners and therefore can be complicated to set up. Due to the inherent overhead involved in managing such connections, these products may not perform as well as hoped. They are also significantly more expensive than mainstream home network routers.

Broadband Multi-Homing Without a Router

Those with technical know-how may be inclined to build their own high-speed multi-homing system at home without purchasing a router. This approach requires you to install two or more network adapters in a computer and develop software scripts that manage the details of network routing and configuration. Utilizing a technique called NIC bonding allows you to aggregate the bandwidth of simultaneous Internet connections.

Partial Multi-Homing Solutions

Network operating systems like Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X contain limited multi-homing support. These provide some basic Internet sharing capability without requiring expensive hardware or deep technical understanding.

With Mac OS X, for example, you can configure multiple Internet connections (including high-speed and/or dialup) and have the operating system automatically fail over from one to the next if a failure occurs in one interface or the other. However, this option does not support any load balancing or attempt to aggregate network bandwidth between the Internet connections.

Microsoft Windows also allows you to configure a similar level of multi-homing on a home network. Older versions of Windows required you to install two or more network adapters on the computer in order to take advantage of multi-homing, but Windows XP and newer versions allow setting up the support using the default adapter alone.

Finally, installing two broadband network routers each with their own Internet subscription allows you to utilize both connections simultaneously, but only on different computers. Ordinary home network routers do not provide any mechanism to coordinate network bandwidth sharing between them.

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