Is your business wifi doing everything you need it to? As remote work becomes the norm, you can’t afford to operate without utilizing the full capacity of your wireless system. In case you missed our latest episode of “The Tech Factor”, here are our five tips for you to improve your business wifi experience:
Most devices—access points, smart phones, and computers alike—will be affected by the constantly changing standard of wireless technology. A lot of us probably remember setting up and configuring our systems in a time when things were different. Just moving from a maximum speed of 11mbps to 54mbps was huge, as it made Ethernet sufficient for work. But the fact is, this technology just won’t cut it anymore. Things are changing fast, both technologically and in the business world.
AC is the current standard for wireless, and for its modernity, it’s a highly mature technology. Still, be on the lookout for the coming AX standard, also known as WiFi 6, which will be even faster. If you’re looking to majorly upgrade your wireless network, WiFi 6 may be well worth the wait. But at the very least, everything you’re using should be on wireless AC. Your business wifi supports multiple users, and wireless AC will optimize bandwidth.
Mesh is an easily expandable business wifi system. It’s also one of most guaranteed ways to increase capacity and coverage of your wireless network. Mesh works by increasing your number of access points per location. Wireless signal extenders placed around your business communicate with each other to make your internet experience more stable and efficient. Essentially, mesh-based systems will offer maximum coverage with minimal configuration. More access points means less congestion and better performance.
Automatic configuration adjusts the power levels for you, so they’re easy to use. Off-the-shelf kits like UniFi, Google Fi and TP-Link are easy to find and can be pretty affordable. Amplifi is an example of a platform that quite literally enables you to plug and play: turn it on and you’ve got wifi; just use the app to configure it. Even ASUS has begun manufacturing this type of system. Additionally, there are more professional-grade setups for those who have a bit more tech experience and a higher budget. Suffice it to say, you’ll find a lot of options for this type of technology.
All of your end user devices (that means your laptop, smart phone, tablet, or any device you want to connect to the internet) need to be up-to-date and have the correct wifi interface. You have hundreds of access points using a high-quality brand mesh system, but at the end of the day, wifi is a two-way technology. This means that when you request to download a webpage, it’s not just the website sending you information—your device must also send information across to the wireless router or access point. In other words, they communicate back and forth.
When you’re sharing files over a business network—for example, on a NAS or other server—you will need that two-way bandwidth, and the best way to achieve that is by making sure your devices are modern and have the latest software updates. In this case, that usually means wireless AC interface cards. When it comes to smartphones, you’ll need to stay on top of any iOS or Android system updates as they become available.
Make sure the tech you’re using isn’t any more than four or five years old at maximum. Three years or less is the ideal threshold for guaranteeing that your device can support everything you need it to do. Older devices may have fantastic wifi, for example, but a 10-year-old laptop will still struggle to communicate with your network. So for your smartphones, VoIPs, desktops and laptops, make sure you have the latest technology. Simple. Even if you equip a slow computer with a wireless card and upgrade to the latest AC access points, you’ll only achieve wireless end speeds of about 300mbps at the most. Keeping in mind that home systems in general can have speeds of up to 1000mbps, there’s still a huge gap there.
Finally, when it comes to wireless technology, it’s important to remember that bandwidth is shared. So, more devices per access point means less overall performance. If you can’t afford to use fewer computers within your business network, consider not only increasing your access points, but making sure that they’re properly designed and configured.
Access points connect to a wide area network (WAN); similarly, your WAN should be connected to a gigabit interface so that there are no routing issues between them. If it’s not gigabit, you could see a WAN port with speeds as slow as 100mbps. Particularly if you have a fiber connection, it’s worth checking the speed of communication between your access point and router. Don’t assume that everything is working as fast as possible just because it’s configured correctly. Make sure you’re using gigabit.
One way to test your connection speed is to unplug your access point and run ping tests from your laptop to your browser. The result should be at least 100 milliseconds. If you’d rather let an expert diagnose your speed, get in touch with your IT provider. They can easily identify any of these issues and advise solutions. It just requires a little technical knowledge.
Some routers come with a manual on the back of the box that diagrams its ports, which can give you an idea of whether you’re working in gigabits or not. Gigabit connections are most common right now, but it’s not safe to assume that every router has one.
Wireless operates within a certain radio frequency, so optimizing channelization is important to avoid interference. This means ensuring that there’s an available block of channel specific to each connection. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. Simply put, your access points shouldn’t overlap signals with each other, and your network shouldn’t overlap with anybody else’s network. Convenience isn’t enough to determine the placement of access points. RF is what really decides what makes a good location. After all, you might love that spot next to the brick wall, but it’s going to prevent signals from traveling well to the other side of it. Understanding RF means minimizing congestion.
Stuck? Professionals can do a wireless site survey to assess and maximize your connection (whether it’s wireless or even broadband). Using wireless analyzers, you’ll be able to determine appropriate locations for access points in your business—and there are a number of free wireless analysis apps for both Android and iPhone. If you don’t already have one in mind, Ubiquiti Networks’ WiFiman is a good place to start.
Your business doesn’t have to suffer from poor connection. If you take the proper steps to increase your speeds and overall performance, you’re bound to see a surprising increase in productivity. Our advice: stick to major brands, do your research, and buy a good access point. You’ll be glad you did.