Wireless networks are becoming more popular by the minute. Today, most people don’t even use wired connections anymore and why should they? They have their laptops, their iPads, and their phones, all connect to the wireless network.
The advantages of a wireless network are great. You can sit anywhere in the house, doing whatever it is that needs to be done. Or how about not having to run those ugly network cables through the house simply to watch Netflix? I know what I would choose. However, a wireless network also has its disadvantages.
But there are also solutions to these disadvantages. In today’s article, I will cover the most common issues that I had to deal with and the solutions to that problem. If you are experiencing any of these problems, you will soon be back to Netflix or cat videos on YouTube on your wireless network.
1. Wireless Network Security
For a wireless network to be useful, it has to reach through the whole house and have connected to all kinds of devices. A problem I have seen way too much is that people don’t like passwords or have problems connecting a device to the network, so they either don’t active the password protection or turn it off.
If you do this, you might have others use your network doing bad stuff. A very common problem is that a neighbor is using a lot of bandwidth, leaving the owner (you) with very little. You may even think that there is something wrong with your wireless network as everything seems to have got a lot slower.
Worse than this is the potential for hackers to connect to your wireless network and then access files on your computers. They may even access your network to commit crimes which would then be easily traceable back to your account which then leaves you “holding the baby”.
What You can do About Wireless Network Security
The first thing to do is to enable encryption on your network. By enabling encryption, you will encrypt all of the information sent on your network and this will make it a lot harder for outsiders to “sniff out” what you are doing.
You can use two types of encryption which are WiFi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) or you can use Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). When you set this up your router and all computers and other devices must use the same encryption type. Check your router to see what encryption it can support and be sure that you switch this on. WPA2 is much better than WEP so if you have that option, choose that.
Check to see if your wireless router has the option to only allow devices that have specific Media Access Control (MAC) addresses. If it has this option, then use it to ensure that only devices that you know about in your home or office can access the network.
You can protect your wireless router by changing its default name. It is also likely to have a default password which you also need to change (often “admin” or “administrator”). A hacker will be fully aware of these passwords and will not expect you to have changed them.
If your router has a remote access option, then turn it off. A smart hacker can use this remote access to get into your wireless network. If you log in to your router to change settings etc then be sure that you log out properly so that nobody can piggyback your session.
It is convenient for mobile device users to access your wireless network and if this is the case make sure that a very strong password is used. If someone loses their smartphone then you do not want other people to be able to access your wireless network. You should, of course, protect your phone with a strong password as well.
2. Limited Range
Although a wireless router will radiate a wireless signal over a reasonably wide area, it is very possible that some areas of your home or small office will not have a strong wireless signal or even no signal at all. EyeSaaS has a good article that explains how much signal loss there is depending on the type of wall you have. However, it’s quite an easy problem to solve.
Extending the Range of your Wireless Network
The first thing you can do is to move the position of your wireless router. Is your router in a central location or is it in a corner of the house? You can also make adjustments to your antennas such as using a fully horizontal position or between this and a fully vertical position.
You also want to see how good the router is if it can distribute WiFi through the whole house. Get as far from the router as possible while still inside and see how good the connection is. If it’s bad, or not even there, you have two options. You can purchase a new router, (I’ll recommend the Asus RT-AC68U on Amazon) or you can a WiFi range extender, like the TP-Link AC750 on Amazon. A WiFi range extender will boost the signal strength from the router. I have written another article explaining how a range extender work that you can read if you are interested in that solution.
3. Wireless Networks is not as Reliable as a Wired Connection
Because a wireless network is, well, wireless, it’s usually not as reliable as a wired network. Nothing is more reliable than a wire connected to two devices but since wireless networks are more convenient and easier, it’s important to increase the reliability of the network. This can be quite easily done in a few ways.
Increasing the Reliability on Your Wireless network
Something I’ve seen is that people tend to tuck the router away in a wardrobe or similar, because “it’s ugly”. While that may be true, the WiFi signal tanks when something like this is done. How ugly it may be, make sure the router is in an open space, in a good central location of the house or apartment.
Wireless signals do not go through concrete walls and other types of materials very well (again, the article from EyeSaaS). There are also things like electrical appliances such as microwaves or cordless telephones that may disturb the WiFi signal.
A way to solve that is to check the channel selected by the router. Most routers will automatically detect the channel with the least congestion which is fine to start with but over time other routers nearby will choose the same channel.
There are a number of tools available to analyze your WiFi network which will help you with channel selection. For a computer installed with Windows 7 or higher, you can use Nirsoft WiFiInfo. There are also apps available for Android devices and iOS.
All of these apps will find the various wireless broadcasts where you are and recommend the channel with the least congestion. You can then reconfigure your router to use this channel for improved performance and reliability.
Be sure that your wireless router is using the most up to date firmware as this can lead to reliability problems. It is not uncommon for new routers to be operating on an outdated version of firmware.
4. The Speed of a Wireless Network
I guess that it comes to no surprise that the speed will also suffer when you go only wireless. Today, the technology is so good that it really doesn’t matter much, as long as you do normal things. However, if you have a kid playing an online game, another one watching Netflix while you want to steam the last episode of Masterchef, you may start to experience problems.
The problems can occur more often if you are far away from the router as well. Routers generally have a hard time sending strong signals to three or four points in a house at the same time.
Improve the Speed of Your Wireless Network
If your entire network is suffering from slow Internet speeds, then you need to isolate the problem. Plug your computer into the wall socket or modem supplied by your ISP (bypass your router). Then use speedtest.net to check your Internet speed. If it’s low, you might need to contact your ISP to get help with either troubleshooting or order a faster internet speed.
However, most of the time, the speed is OK from the ISP and the problem is instead in the hardware that you have at home. This could be because of channel congestion so use a WiFi analyzer to find a less congested channel and switch your router over to this.
You will also want to strengthen the network with range extenders. They will help the router to distribute the wireless network through the house, making it faster and more reliable. A friend of mine recently purchased the Google Mesh system from Amazon. He says that his wireless speed has increased scientifically since. You can read more about mesh networks here and why it works so well.
You may also know that there are two signals being sent out from the router. The 2.4GHz network is slower but has a longer range while the 5GHz is faster but with shorter range. If you are close to the router, try moving over to the 5GHz network to increase the speed.
5. Finding the Right Location for Your Router can be Tough
Finding the best location for your router is not fun, and most of the time it’s not that easy. Even more technical persons place the router where they think it’s good and then complement with a range extender if needed. However, you can save both money and frustration if you do this. What you lose is the time doing it.
How to find the best Location for your Wireless Router
A simple test is to place the router in a different location each day for a week and see which place works the best. The most ideal location is a central one if you have more than one device that will require access, which I guess you do.
Try your best to find a location which avoids any physical obstructions such as walls and cabinets. Sometimes it is better to place your router high up so that the obstructions will not interfere with the wireless signal.
Do not locate your router near to other appliances that use wireless signalings such as cordless phones, baby monitors and microwaves. Make sure that these appliances are at least three feet away from the router.
If your router has antennas, then make use of them by adjusting them for the strongest wireless signal. Manufacturers of routers will often provide guidelines on antenna adjustment so be sure to follow them.
There are also more technical ways to do this. You can download software that measures the signal strength and checks for obstructions but that is way too complicated to cover in this article.
6. Wireless Networks can Suffer from Interference
This is something that has been mentioned in the article already but it’s worth mentioning again. Electronic devices that you have at home will interfere with your wireless signal, making it worse. A classic example that I’m sure you have heard before you read this article is the microwave.
How to Minimize Interference
The easiest way to avoid interference is to place the router in a central location with very little interference, as mentioned in other sections. You can use software that will detect where there is a lot of interference in your house.
An easier thing to do is to start using the 5GHz network only. Most interference is on the 2.4GHz network and choosing the 5GHz solves that problem. However, then you may need to invest in range extenders but if that makes your wireless network better, then it’s worth every penny.