What Happened To My Fast Internet?
We’ve all had that problem: you sit down, motivated for the day and ready to get everything done…. and you can’t connect to the internet. The wifi is broken again. Everyone has problems with wireless internet speed, both at home and at work. Typical fixes include: “wait for it to get better,” or “reboot the stupid thing again.” Here, we present 4 things you can do to make your wireless network better so this won’t be a problem in your life.
1. Don’t Use Wifi
That’s right, we said it. Don’t use wifi! True, this is a bit of a strange suggestion, given the focus of this article, but hear us out (and then move on to more poignant tips). What we will be discussing below are all the problems with wireless internet speed and how to get around them. But the fact remains: wifi has a lot of problems. Interference, technology limitations, encryption keys, the list goes on and on.
Wired connections have none of these problems. In terms of a fast internet connection, plugging your computer in to a network with a cable is better in every way, except portability. Wired connections are faster, more secure, more stable, and less likely to give you problems than a wifi connection by an order of magnitude. The only downside is you are limited to where you can move and you have a cable sticking out of your laptop. But you probably have a power cable and mouse cable sticking out of your laptop already, so one more isn’t a big deal. Plus, how often do you really browse the web while walking your laptop around the office?
2. Place Your Equipment Properly
Where you put your wireless router or access point can greatly affect how well you can connect to it. Have you ever noticed your cell phone always cuts out in the same spot in your house? That’s probably because the signal can’t get from the tower to your phone any longer because of what’s in the way. The same thing happens to wifi. If your wireless router or access point is next sitting in a cement room with 3 foot thick walls, it is pretty obvious that the signal won’t get out very well. Keep the following guidelines, provided by Cisco, in mind when anticipating how far your signal will go through different building materials:
- Paper and vinyl walls have very little affect on signal penetration.
- Solid and pre-cast concrete walls limit signal penetration to one or two walls without degrading coverage.
- Concrete and wood block walls limit signal penetration to three or four walls.
- A signal can penetrate five or six walls constructed of drywall or wood.
- A thick metal wall causes signals to reflect off, causing poor penetration.
- A chain link fence or wire mesh spaced between 1 and 1 1/2 in. (2.5 and 3.8 cm) acts as a harmonic reflector that blocks a 2.4-Ghz radio signal.
Also, avoid placing your wireless equipment next to windows, filing cabinets, HVAC ducts, and other metal surfaces, as they can bounce the signal in unexpected ways. And keep them away from devices that cause interference (see below), regardless of the material. The higher you can place your wireless router, the better the internet speed. Definitely above furniture level, on the ceiling is great. Finally, position the antenna vertically for best signal strength.
3. Avoid Interference
The biggest problem with internet speed is when other wireless signals get in the way. If you are in an office building with 15 other companies within wireless range of you, then your wireless device is competing with at least 15 other devices, all trying to send data over the same spectrum. But wireless manufacturers know this is how life is, so they do a good job at designing their products to work in crowded environments like that. The more difficult problem is other non-wifi devices that are using the same spectrum. Most wifi uses the 2.4 GHz spectrum range. So do baby monitors. So do cordless phones. Here is a list of some common non-wifi devices that can all interfere with your wireless internet speed and access:
- Microwave ovens
- Cordless phones
- Bluetooth devices
- Wireless video cameras
- Outdoor microwave links
- Wireless game controllers
- Zigbee devices
- Fluorescent lights
- Baby monitors
So, what can you do to avoid all of these problems with wifi speed? First, have a wireless policy for your office. Tell your employees they can have video game consoles in their office, but they cannot have wireless controllers. Encourage people to avoid using Bluetooth when alternatives exist.
Next, carefully consider proper device placement for your networking equipment. In addition to the tips given above, don’t put your wireless equipment next to the microwave in the kitchen, or on top of a fluorescent light in the ceiling.
When setting up your wireless network, choose your channels carefully. Look to see what your neighbors are using for wifi channels, and choose one that is used less. Channels 1, 6, and 11 are best.
Finally, use the 5 GHz spectrum for wireless communication. Most wireless these days, as well as much of the interference, is on the 2.4 GHz band. Newer wireless devices can offer the same wireless service on a different spectrum, 5 GHz, which has much less traffic, interference, and noise. As more people realize this trick, they will move there as well so it will only work for so long. But even if everyone moves there, it will still have less interference from other non-wifi devices.
4. Buy the Right Equipment
You can go down to your local Radio Shack or Best Buy and pick up a wireless router for $60. If it works for your home, it should work for your business, right? Wrong. Anyone who has read our article on buying a new PC will recognize the flaw in this logic. Manufacturers tend to build products with two different markets in mind: home and business. The equipment they produce for the business market tends to be very stable, high end, is expected to work all the time in varied conditions, and is more expensive.
The equipment they produce for the home market is less expensive, but is typically built with lower quality components, has fewer features, and they know that it doesn’t need to work 100% of the time because it’s just some dude at home using it and he can reboot it regularly or go replace it for another $60 in a year if it breaks.
One of the biggest problems businesses have with wifi speed is that they are using home class devices. In order to have wireless available, stable, and running optimally all the time, businesses need to invest in a business class wireless network. Business devices will communicate with each other better than home devices, allowing fast internet from one end of the office to the other without losing connection.
Many people try to solve their wireless problems by putting a wifi device in every room; this is a bad idea. This can lead to more interference, even if they are all part of the same network. Business class wifi devices will coordinate with each other how strong of a signal they need to broadcast to cover all areas, thus creating less interference.
Next, get a device that can handle 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. As we saw above, 5 GHz is a more open spectrum with fewer devices on it and less interference. But not all computers, tablets, phones, etc. can access 5 GHz, so you will still need to provide 2.4 GHz access. Find a device that can do both of these simultaneously, as some claim can do both but cannot actually do both at the same time.
Finally, know the difference between a wireless router and a wireless access point. An access point provides wireless access to an existing network. This is what most businesses will want in most situations. A router creates a new network, segregating people on it from all other network traffic. These are more common at retail stores and will cause communication problems between computers if you put this on your network.
Having questions about your wireless internet speed now and aren’t sure what to do? Does fast internet seem like an unachievable dream to you at this point? Please ask any questions in the comments section below, we would be happy to answer.