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How to Improve Your Wi-Fi when Everyone’s Working From Home

If when you’re watching a movie, your Wi-Fi cuts out, it’s a bummer. But it can feel like a calamity if it happens when you’re talking to your boss over Skype or giving a presentation via Zoom. And if your kid keeps getting kicked out of their online classes because your Wi-Fi is bad it’s a problem too.

However, as #stayathome, remote work and online learning are likely to remain the norm for quite a while yet these are issues you’ll need to deal with. Working from home means that you will have to be your own IT department and maintain your Internet connectivity so that you can access company services, communicate with friends, and show that you don’t slack off. And keep your kids in class.

Without investing a cent, you can address some issues quite easily, but some problems require purchasing new hardware, or making some slightly more complex changes.

Just Move

Just move your router closer. Yes, it seems simplistic, but switching to a couch or table next to the router will stabilize a spotty connection during a call, and it could be the most reliable option you can implement with the least amount of hassle if you need the faster speed RIGHT NOW.

Check for Firmware Upgrades

Improvements in firmware for your router often provide speed tweaks and may fix established buggy system issues.

There are automatic firmware updates for most mesh networking kits and many new routers, but some routers still make you log in to the admin page of your device and then manually check and upgrade the firmware. In general, under “device settings,” “advanced settings,” or “system tools,” is where you will find firmware updates, but a Google search for your router’s model number should pull up a user manual with more comprehensive instructions if you need them.

Move Your Router Set Up to a Central Location

Don’t hide your router in a cabinet, as that can lead to overheating, and Wi-Fi signals can be blocked by the construction materials in the cabinet. Wi-Fi signals radiate out from the router, so your best bet is to position the router in the center of your house, provided you can move the router and cable modem together.

Look for nearby shelves if you can’t plug in your router somewhere else and place the router physically higher in the room with no obstructions around it. If there are external antennas for your router, ensure that they are securely screwed in. If they are still in the box, they don’t do any good.

Use Band Steering

Band steering works like your router’s traffic control to link your gadgets to the best channels. This function pushes slower devices to the 2.4 GHz bands with weaker signals and places the 5 GHz bands on stronger, closer devices.

That way, for example, the smart speaker in an upstairs bathroom will be on a separate channel and will not interfere with a video meeting downstairs on a laptop. On the administration page of your router, look for a setting like “Smart Link”. By default, it should be on, but if not, it can usually be found under the “Wi-Fi settings” tab.

Unplug, Disconnect or Retire Older Devices

As they hold on to their network connections longer than newer 802.11ac devices, older 802.11 g and 802.11n Wi-Fi devices can tie up your network without you realizing it . After all, a router is not simultaneously connected to all your devices; rather, it switches back and forth at a blindingly fast rate between them.

During work hours, unplug or turn off older Internet security cameras, tablets, and even older smartphones. You shouldn’t have to worry about idle devices like game consoles, but older smart devices may constantly connect to Internet services and slow down your connection quite unnecessarily.

Minimize Bandwidth Hogging Distractions

Listening to Spotify in the background while working is probably fine, but quit the app if you’re trying to get the best speeds possible. And if your connection is causing problems, resist the urge to stream Netflix just because no one is around to criticize you for it. Video uses bandwidth you need for connecting to your company’s Web interface, a shared document, or a meeting.

Check the Speed You are Subscribed For

Your router might be able to transmit at a rate over 200 Mbps, but your connection to the Internet is limited by the service plan you’ve subscribed to. Average broadband speeds in 2015 were around 14 Mbps, and some people still have the plans they signed up for at that time. Average speeds today are closer to 100 Mbps. So talk to your ISP to make sure you have all the ‘power’ available ‘unlocked and available’ via your current plan.

It Might Be Time To Start All Over Again

It may just be time to stop looking for easy hacks and start building your network all over again. A newer router or a mesh kit will increase the range, reliability, and speed all over your home if your router is more than a couple of years old and is failing in more areas than not.

For average-size homes, standalone routers should be fine, while mesh kits are recommended when you need to cover a wider area or if Wi-Fi-blocking materials such as masonry or metal construction are used in your building.

If you’re working from home with kids home from school and learning remotely as well, your router may need to connect at the same time to dozens of devices. All those laptops, tablets, games consoles, printers, and streaming boxes will be connected to a secure network by a new router or mesh package. If you’re still using an 802.11 b / g / n router from the early 2010s, definitely consider a replacement.

Need help improving your home’s wireless networks to accommodate the ‘new normal’? Contact us today, we’ll be happy to help.

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