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Saturday, September 14, 2019

4 Top WiFi Tips for Optimizing Your Home Network

WiFi has become an essential part of modern home technology. Over the last five years, a majority of American households have abandoned landlines and now rely entirely on cell phones for phone communications, according to NPR. Additionally, 43 percent of American workers now work from home at least occasionally, with a growing number working from home full-time, relying on a WiFi connection for their income. Moreover, by 2021, 28 percent of households will be using smart home devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to run critical technology such as thermostats and home security systems.

These trends make having a reliable home WiFi network an absolute priority. Here are four tips to optimize your home’s WiFi network for both personal and business use:

1. Plan for Your Whole Home

In a world where everything is connected, setting up your home for wireless connectivity means planning for a whole house WiFi system, also known as a mesh network. With whole-home WiFi, every room in your home and all devices in your home are within range of your wireless network, with no dead spots. This avoids annoying situations such as having one part of your house where your phone doesn’t work or one device that has an unreliable Internet connection. It can be particularly crucial if you have a home office that is away from your central hub and needs fast connectivity.

An effective way to achieve whole house WiFi connectivity is to supplement your central WiFi hub with satellite nodes stationed at strategic locations throughout your house. For instance, wireless provider Cox supports the use of Panoramic WiFi Pods that can exchange data with your central hub. This delivers the same high-speed connectivity throughout your mesh network, avoiding slow speeds that you would otherwise experience in certain parts of your home.

2. Choose the Right Hardware

Choosing optimal hardware and using it correctly is key to boosting the performance of your home WiFi network. Router selection and positioning play a critical role. A router using an older 802.11g standard only supports a maximum throughput of 54 Mbps, while the more recent 802.11ac standard supports a much faster 1 Gbps.

Position your router in a central location rather than a corner of your house, so that it delivers a maximum radius of coverage throughout your home. Check to make sure your network administrator settings are configured for optimum performance. For instance, if you have a dual-band router, you can often improve your throughput by setting it on the 5GHz band instead of the usual 2.4GHz band. Most dual-band routers will let you select the same network name for both bands, which is preferable, but in some cases, you may need to use different names and select bands manually.

You can try changing router channels if your neighbors’ networks are interfering with yours. Additionally, most routers offer Quality of Service (QoS) tools that let you set limits on the amount of bandwidth different apps use. For instance, you might want to prioritize your office software over your kids’ video game usage.

Besides your router, other hardware that affects your network’s performance includes antennas, repeaters (extenders), and satellite nodes. Many routers have internal antennas, but adding an external antenna with high-gain directional sensitivity can improve performance. A wireless range extender or mesh satellite nodes can expand the range of your home network.

3. Keep Your Firmware and Software Updated

Staying up-to-date with the latest firmware and software upgrades will help ensure optimal performance for your network. Most modern routers have a firmware upgrade button built into your administrative interface. For older routers, you may have to download firmware updates manually.

Desktop computers and laptops also use wireless and network driver software to communicate with wireless and network adapters. Problems with these drivers can cause trouble for your network, so make sure to keep them updated. This is usually done from within your operating system. For instance, in Windows 10, you can check for the latest drivers by going into Device Manager under Network adapters and selecting the option to update drivers.

4. Prioritize Security

Your home WiFi network is connected to devices that contain sensitive data, so it’s essential to follow sound WiFi security procedures. One of the simplest but most overlooked security foundations is changing your default router password to something harder to crack, preferably with at least twelve characters and a mix of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Use strong passwords for connecting devices to your network as well. Set your network SSID name to “hidden” so that people who don’t know the name can’t connect.

Encryption is another key to WiFi security. Today’s preferred WiFi encryption standard is called WPA2 (WiFi Protected Access 2). Using a virtual private network (VPN) Internet connection and a firewall will further harden your network.

Some routers have a feature called Wireless Protect Setup (WPS) that makes it easy for devices to connect to a WPA-protected network. Unfortunately, this also makes it easier for hackers to connect, so you should disable this feature if your router has it.

In addition to these steps, it’s important to follow other basic digital security best practices, such as keeping software updated, using an antivirus program, avoiding suspicious links, and backing up your data periodically.

Optimize Your WiFi Network

In today’s connected world, optimizing your home WiFi network can be just as basic to maintaining your home as making sure your plumbing is working correctly. Keys to optimizing your network include making sure your whole home is connected, choosing the right hardware, keeping your firmware and software updated, and adopting digital security best practices. Following these guidelines will help improve your home network’s reliability, speed, and security.


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