Home networking is usually a coincidental matter. Your router's placement may depend more on where your ISP could be connected than on the best location.
With more and more people at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have complained about the slowness of their network. Now, more than one person may be working from home, along with students using the distance learning network. It is easy to see why we notice slowness on our computer networks. What can we take from business networking to charge your home network?
What can we learn from business networking?
When I started working in information technology, a home network was almost unknown. Companies with many employees could afford to set up computer networks so that individuals and teams can work together efficiently. However, networks remained too complex and too expensive for most households.
We can remove three main problems from the business network that take into account the most important aspects: security, stability and speed.
Security: protect your resources
Security is probably the most critical aspect of networking in the business world. Not only do we try to protect sensitive data, we also need to protect devices from viruses and malicious software that infected computers use to attack and infect other computers and devices.
Activate wireless security
The days of leaving your wireless network without a password are over. WLAN routers now encrypt and protect your WLAN with a password by default. This is important so that you know which devices are allowed to connect to your network.
You should make sure that your network uses WPA2 wireless security. WPA2 is the most commonly used encryption scheme for wireless networks today and is considered the most secure. Set a complex password for your network and only give the password for your network to people whose devices you trust. I would even recommend giving the WiFi password only to people who live in your house.
Turn your guests into guests
Most routers now also have the option to activate a guest network. If different people access your WiFi frequently, you want to enable and secure the guest network option. The guest network allows you to provide visitors with Internet access without having their devices stored on the same network as all of your devices. This will protect you from malicious software that resides on devices over which you have no control.
If your router is busy enough to reach its processing limit, your devices will process Internet traffic with a higher priority than guest network traffic. This means that data requests from the Internet are met on your devices before requests from guest devices are made.
You need security software
In the good old days of dial-up Internet access, you could argue that a software firewall and malicious software scanner were not required in addition to an antivirus. Nowadays, realistically, you need to have a full security suite on every computer you connect to the Internet.
Since more of our lives have moved online: social media, banking, investments, shopping, and even our medical records, it's important to protect ourselves. We cannot afford to let viruses, keyloggers and data miners take over our computers and gain access to our entire lives.
There are many legitimate security suites. Almost every well-known brand offers excellent protection. Geeks like me have personal preferences based on old grudges, good experiences, and even researching performance and effectiveness.
If you are unsure which option is best for you, ask a computer savvy friend what they are using on their system. These programs are not cheap, but much cheaper than trying to restore and clean data from an infected system. And it's even more expensive to spend weeks or months repairing damage to your finances or reputation when your personal accounts are compromised.
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Keep your work separate from your game
If your home network is being used by someone from another company, they should have a dedicated computer for that role.
Most companies have a policy that their computers should not be used by employees for personal use. This should not bother the employees, but because personal use is very different from work. If you surf the Internet for personal reasons, you are more likely to accidentally land on a malicious website by typing a URL incorrectly or following a search engine link that leads to a place you don't want to be.
It's great that many companies allow their employees to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce exposure to the virus. Make sure you follow the guidelines they set for using their devices.
Stability: a reliable connection
Stability and reliability are hallmarks of a good corporate network. There may be problems in business computer networks, but generally less than in our home networks.
If you’re constantly experiencing issues, especially video calls, you can take the following measures to minimize them.
Minimize wireless devices
Wi-Fi is super practical. All you have to do is enter your network password and you can go online. (If you don't have a password, you may want to reread the first part of this article.) The more wireless devices on your network, the slower your WiFi will be when devices try to "talk" and the way you do it communication between the router and devices is handled.
Using Ethernet cables to connect devices provides a much more stable network connection than the wireless one. Ethernet is not susceptible to interference from household appliances or the neighbour's wireless network. Cable connections are also processed differently, effectively relieving the load on the processor handling wireless traffic and eliminating the possibility of two devices interfering with each other's requirements.
At home, I use Ethernet cables to connect stationary devices to our network if possible. Our router is near the TV in our living room. Therefore, I use Ethernet cables to connect our video game consoles, streaming devices and our storage device connected to the network. These 6 devices are now removed from the wireless network and work reliably. I almost never have to worry about buffering when streaming a video compared to watching on Wi-Fi devices.
If you have a location where you normally work at home, I recommend laying an Ethernet cable in this location to give your work the most reliable network connection possible. This is especially important if your work area is close to the range of the wireless network. Even companies that provide laptops to employees so that they can move around for meetings in the office usually offer a docking station for use at any desk connected to Ethernet.
Ethernet cables are also relatively cheap. For a few dollars, you can connect a nearby device to your router with minimal effort.
Include newer technologies
Large offices use a technique called "mesh" to set up their wireless networks. This differs from most home networks in that it requires multiple wireless access points, the areas of which overlap, so that all areas of the office have reliable WiFi coverage. Many home networks only have the central router that provides Wi-Fi coverage.
There are many companies that manufacture systems that offer a mesh kit for home use. Mesh kits generally come with a central router and at least one additional satellite device to extend the range. These newer mesh Wi-Fi systems are vastly improved over older Wi-Fi repeaters because they have dedicated wireless bands for inter-device communication and a separate band for requests from your wireless devices.
This option is suitable for houses where you cannot safely route Ethernet cables in your desired area or if you rent your house and cannot drill into walls to pull cables.
A disadvantage when using new technologies is the cost. These mesh systems work well and increase reliability, but cost twice or more than the price of a standard home router. When new wireless technologies come onto the market, they will also be integrated into the home network.
Stabilize the performance of your network
After living in a rural area and offering network and troubleshooting services to rural residents, I learned the importance of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for home networks. These are surge protective devices with a built-in battery that supplies power in the event of power failures and blackouts.
In the country where the voltage dropped, there were power outages in which the lights were dimmed, some devices turned off, and computers crashed. Electronics that are operated with reduced voltage can be damaged by a power failure. When the full power flows back, there is often a risk that the devices will be damaged by a surge if they are not protected.
Not everyone is affected by blackouts. However, by adding a UPS to your network, you can maintain network connectivity and even Internet service during a power outage if your vendor's devices also have backup power sources. If you experience power outages, a UPS can increase the reliability of your network and reduce damage to your technology devices.
If you have added multiple network switches or additional mesh nodes, they must also be connected to their own battery power so that devices connected to them continue to work.
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Speed: Maximize the performance of your network
In the time since I graduated from college, the speed of wired Ethernet increased by a factor of 100 from 10 Mbit / s to 1,000 Mbit / s. At the same time, we have evolved from large desktop computers with giant monitors to bright laptops with screens with more visible space than these giant monitors.
Part of the motivation for this step was the introduction of wireless networks. You no longer have to be tied to just one place to do your work, but can move around your home based on mood and activities.
Implement changes systematically
Implementing the above suggestions should have helped increase the speed of your network:
- Secure your network so that only your devices use your network.
- If necessary, connect devices to your network via Ethernet instead of WLAN.
- Add nodes to extend the radio coverage for more stability.
However, your network may need additional help. If your family switched the network to network-intensive activities all day for a few hours in the evening, these changes may not have been sufficient.
Buy new hardware if necessary
The slowest part of your internet connection is the connection between your home network and your ISP. This connection is managed by your home router. If your router is more than a handful of years old and you are experiencing speed issues, you should update your router.
When we had to replace our router a few years ago, this became clear when we greatly increased the number of devices in our network. We switched from 2 or 3 devices that use the network at the same time to 5 computers that were almost always in operation. There is the possibility that 4 smartphones, a video game console, a tablet and a streaming device can be used at any time.
The moment I installed the new router, the speed difference was obvious without upgrading to a higher speed with our ISP. A few months later, when our ISP increased the bandwidth for our plan, we were able to use it immediately.
Make the most of your network
Hopefully, if you notice reliability or speed issues on your network, you can use this article to create an improvement plan. Regardless of whether the cause of your frustration is more people on the network, more network-intensive activities, or just a frustrating tendency that your WLAN is down, you can take measures to improve your network.
Use these lessons from business networking and recharge your home network!
How Business Networking Concepts Supercharge Home Networks was first published in Home Business Magazine.