How To Set Up VLANs On Your Home Wi-Fi Network

Families use their home WiFi network for a wide variety of purposes. From looking up recipes, streaming films or television shows, gaming, completing schoolwork, and even working online, the average four person household can find themselves accessing hundreds of websites and personal accounts in the span of one working week. For those who are working remotely or may be maintaining a hybrid work model, chances are you’ve already realised this, and have been wondering how best to protect your personal devices and user data in the event that one of your home’s many devices falls victim to malware or cyberattacks.

This is where VLANs (or ‘virtual local area networks’) come into play. But what are VLANs exactly, and what hardware do you need in order to set up a VLAN or two for your own home? We’ll be answering these questions today, alongside providing families with a little step-by-step overview of how they can set up their own VLANs.

What are VLANs exactly?

There are more ways to take the strain off your home’s WiFi network than just connecting devices up using cat 6 cables. Although utilising ethernet connectivity can be substantially beneficial for freeing up some of your network bandwidth, this connection method does not hold any impact to your network’s security. Ethernet connected devices can still be susceptible to third-party hacking activity or any malware that has breached your home network through vulnerabilities across your network connection. This in a nutshell, is what prompts many tech-savvy thinkers to set up VLANs on their home network.

Simply put, VLANs are effectively virtual LANs within a larger LAN or ‘local area network’. A LAN is also just another name for your home’s network as a whole. VLANs are considered to be sub-networks, or subnets.

Each VLAN has its own broadcast domain, which essentially means that devices that are connected up to the same VLAN can communicate with one another without having to go through your router’s primary network connection. As a result, traffic on VLANs has to be routed, which in turn introduces network latency, which can be high or low – just like your WiFi connection speeds can be slow or fast – depending on the configuration of your network.

There are also three different types of VLANs, these being:

  • Protocol VLANs – automatically handles network traffic based on pre-established protocols. 

  • Static VLANs – requires the network administrator to manually assign each port on a managed switch to a particular VLAN.

  • Dynamic VLANs – allows the network administrator to organise each connected device into a VLAN based on that device’s characteristics.

This guide will focus primarily on setting up static VLANs, as these are most likely to be utilised in smaller, non-commercial networks like home WiFi networks. 

What are the benefits and limitations of using VLANs at home?

As we mentioned earlier, VLANs can be an asset to any remote or hybrid workers who are looking to work from home securely. But in order for your VLAN to bolster the security of your home network, you need to ensure that you’ve configured and secured your VLAN subnets correctly. 

This means taking the time to create unique connection protocols for each VLAN sub-network. For instance, your primary home network may require one password, whereas your VLAN subnet could require another password. By creating these distinct connection protocols, you can drastically reduce the risk of your primary home network becoming vulnerable to the same security breaches that could be impacting your subnet. This is also why many remote and hybrid workers choose to establish subnets at home for keeping their work devices separate from their personal devices.

But the efficacy of VLANs as a security measure is reliant on your household adhering to strict regulations surrounding device connectivity, as well as keeping network traffic to a minimum on these particular subnets. In other words, upholding the distinctions between subnets on your home network is a communal responsibility, and so all members of your household would either need to be aware of the usage rules and restrictions surrounding your subnets, or in the case of younger children, only have password access to one particular subnet rather than the primary network. 

VLANs may also not be worth the effort that goes into setting them up if your household doesn’t really have a need to segment network traffic or protect specific devices on your network. If you’re not working from home or belong to a one or two-person household that uses minimal devices, then chances are you won’t be likely to benefit from the additional network traffic streams and security infrastructure that VLANs naturally provide. 

What devices are required to set up VLANs?

In order to set up your own VLAN at home, you’ll first need to find a VLAN-compatible router, managed switch, and wireless access points that are all VLAN-capable. Nowadays, a growing majority of these manufacturers stipulate on device packaging whether their networking hardware is VLAN-capable. 

If you’re not sure, however, you’ll want to scan your modem and router’s packaging for any mention of DHCP (or ‘Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol’) server functionalities. Devices that are capable of supporting a DHCP server, can be used to establish VLANs. As for ethernet switches, any that are presented as ‘managed switches’ or ‘smart switches’ will be highly likely to have web-based administration panels, which can then be used to configure VLANs.

Ethernet or cat 6 cables can then be used to connect IoT devices like smart printers directly to your VLAN, or to your home’s primary network connection.

How to set up your VLANs

The first step of setting up any VLAN is determining what you’d like to achieve with this network configuration. Are you looking to keep your work or school devices separate from your home devices? Are you looking to prioritise traffic for select devices over others? Or are you simply looking to set up a guest network so that you can keep your home network as secure as possible whilst still feeling comfortable providing guests with access to your WiFi.

Answering these questions now can help you finetune your network configuration to provide the strongest performance results. And once your objectives have been outlined, simply follow the step-by-step instructions we’ve included below.

Step-by-step guide on how to set up a VLAN for your home network

  • Step 1: Create a new VLAN by accessing VLAN settings in your router’s admin panel.

  • Step 2: Assign an SSID (‘service set identifier’, otherwise known as a network name) to your new VLAN.

  • Step 3: Assign VLAN IDs to each device connected to your network. This can also be done through your router’s admin panel.

  • Step 4: Configure ports on your managed switch by assigning the same VLAN ID that points to your established VLAN.

  • Step 5: Configure DHCP settings by establishing a new DHCP server for your VLAN in your router’s admin panel.

  • Step 6: Configure firewall for your VLAN. Your firewall will help provide additional control over which network traffic can access your VLAN.

  • Step 7: Test your VLAN by connecting a device that has been assigned the same VLAN ID.

With your home network VLANs now all set up, you and your wider household can finally just enjoy the additional security and perhaps even faster network speeds provided through this innovative network configuration. Just be sure to monitor your firewall and other network security measures, alongside updating your network access passwords routinely to reduce the risk of your subnets becoming compromised.