With the holidays fast approaching chances are that you will be getting together with friends and family. One of the staples of modern gatherings is everyone jumping onto the WiFi. If you are hosting, that means everyone using your WiFi. If you're not that means you're likely using a friends or family members WiFi. This month we'll go over a few tips to help ensure your WiFi is ready for the seasonal rush.
1. Minimize Bandwidth Congestion
First and most important is minimizing internet bandwidth congestion. If you're not sure what internet bandwidth is, we have a handy article on the subject. But to quickly refresh, think of your internet connection like a water pipe. There's only so much bandwidth you can fit through the "pipe" and for every device that is connected to your WiFi, everyone's connection speed will drop. This can be anything from a minor annoyance to extremely frustrating, especially in cases where family are staying over for an extended period of time.
There are a few ways to combat this. The first way is to purchase a better internet package. Some Internet Providers will allow you to upgrade to a higher package for a short time allowing you to increase your bandwidth for the holiday season and then go back to your normal speed after the season is over so be sure to check and see if yours will allow that. If that isn't feasible, you may want to check out the settings of your wireless router. Many newer routers have "QoS" settings that you can use to try and more evenly distribute what bandwidth you do have among devices to help eliminate congestion. If your current router doesn't support those options you may want to consider upgrading it.
Finally, if you do upgrade your internet bandwidth but are still experiencing issues, you may want to check the router. Older routers may be using older wireless technology which will severely hamper the connection speeds of the devices connected to it, especially if there are a lot of them.
2. Guest Network Security
Once you've gotten bandwidth and speed out of the way, it's time to think about security. While you may not be super worried about family connecting to your WiFi, it's still a good idea to have a guest network for them to connect to in your house. This will keep your own devices more secure as well as everyone elses. Most modern routers have a guest network function which creates a second wireless network in your home. This special guest network will allow those connected to it access to the internet but prevent their devices from communicating to anybody else on the same network. This is a great way of preventing the spread of malware.
Another benefit of guest networks is that some of them allow for limiting the maximum bandwidth of each device connected to it. This ties into our earlier point of helping keep everyone happy by making sure that everyone gets a share of bandwidth.
Finally you will definitely want to make sure your router's administrative password is not the default one. This is usually a common-sense item but it never hurts to check just to be sure. This is especially true if you happen to have a "tech savvy" niece/nephew/grandchild/etc who likes to tinker with things they shouldn't but it also helps ensure your router will be less vulnerable to malicious attacks. Remember, you may trust your family and friends, but you should be wary of their devices.
3. Wireless Coverage
Lastly, you can have great internet bandwidth and security, but none of that will do you any good if everyone has to be huddled in one room of the house in order to use it. Wireless coverage can be very fickle. Especially in older houses with multiple levels or houses with insulation in the interior walls.
Fortunately there are a few ways to combat it. In some cases, revisiting your router and replacing it with a newer model may but all you need to do. However sometimes that's not quite enough. In those cases you can look at devices like wireless repeaters which can help boost the signal in an area. These can help in a pinch but aren't really a long-term solution. A third option is to utilize a wireless "mesh" network. This type of network utilizes a main router along with several "satellite" wireless access points. All of these work together to create a wireless network with great coverage. This approach can be somewhat expensive but is a surefire way to ensure you receive great coverage throughout your home.
Lastly, you may want to check and see what band your wireless network is using. Modern wireless networks will utilize either a 2.4Ghz band or a 5Ghz band. A 2.4Ghz network will carry further and have better range and the cost of bandwidth and potential interference. A 5Ghz network is much less prone to interference and has better bandwidth but does not carry as well which will reduce the range. If range is the biggest concern, make sure you are using a 2.4Ghz network.
The holidays are often a very busy time of year but following these tips will help take at least one potential headache out of the equation. Of course, if you think you need professional assistance we're always happy to help.
If you need assistance setting up your network for the holidays, get in touch.