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It’s difficult to imagine a modern business that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. The internet is one of the most powerful tools in the world right now, and every level of every business typically needs it on demand. For most business locations, that access is determined by the integrity of the Wi-Fi network. There are a lot of components to even the simplest networks, and some things can make performance great or drag it into the ground. If you follow just five simple tips, you can solve the most common problems and have a faster, more reliable Wi-Fi experience.
Find the Right Spot
Wi-Fi coverage starts with placing the central router. Two things determine the right spot for your router: range and interference. The first thing you want to do is find a central room that will allow the router to reach the whole building. If you have multiple floors, the router needs to be in the middle. Standard business equipment will have a range between 100 and 200 feet. That’s a good rule of thumb to help you find the best place to keep it.
Interference is often a bigger problem than simple range. Thick walls or ceilings can eat a lot of the radio signal that Wi-Fi uses. The adobe and stucco styles that are popular in the Southwest and California are particularly rough on signal strength. Basically, any wall that isn’t hollow is going to be trouble. By that same philosophy, you want to avoid putting the router in cabinets or other obstructions that add to the effective thickness of material the signal needs to penetrate.
Even worse than thick obstacles are metals and electronics. Any sufficiently large metal container or siding can act as a Faraday cage and ultimately kill the signal. Large electronic devices and heavy-current wires can also create large sources of interference.
When you put it all together, you want a location for your router that is as central as possible and clear of obstruction. Empty space should surround the device for the best signal strength.
Boost Your Range
Even when you manage to find the perfect spot, you still might not have the coverage you want or need. Many buildings are just too big for a single router. Additionally, floor plans aren’t made with Wi-Fi in mind, so there might be a frustrating nook or corner that isn’t getting signal. This is more easily overcome than it might seem. A repeater or range extender will usually solve the problem. They attach to the signal of the central router and act as an extension hub to give your Wi-Fi a more extensive range.
When you place a repeater, follow the same rules you did for your router. The repeater can fall victim to the same interference as any Wi-Fi device.
In the end, you only have access to so much data per second. Sometimes finding a provider with a more significant data stream is necessary, but there are things to check before going that route. In general, there are two sources of bandwidth hogs that you can manage: users and apps.
Managing users starts with security. Your Wi-Fi needs a strong password and encryption to ensure that unauthorized users are off the network. Piggybacking is often the source of internet slowdowns for businesses everywhere. It doesn’t take effective security measures to plug that leak.
If your business offers Wi-Fi access to customers, the issue is a little trickier. Usually, the best practice is to have at least two completely separate networks. Guest access can be segregated from business-critical functions. That way having too many guests at once won’t impact your ability to function as a business.
Managing apps is also pretty easy. The biggest bandwidth hogs are applications that involve video. Higher definition video adds to demand, so your best bet is to try and schedule use of these apps around moments when Wi-Fi is in less demand. If necessary, you can use administrative software that will automatically throttle apps that use too much bandwidth, but keep in mind that this can impact the performance of those apps.
Try Different Channels
There’s a good chance that your business is surrounded by other buildings. There’s another good chance that those buildings also have their own Wi-Fi networks. Those adjacent networks can interfere with each other, and it is usually inconsistent and frustrating when it happens. There’s an easy fix.
Cycle through different channels on your Wi-Fi router and network. Considering the standard range of routers, you should be able to find an unused channel. That will eliminate the interference problem and help your overall performance.
Check Your Service
After all is said and done, most businesses don’t provide their own internet access. Best practices can do wonders for your Wi-Fi, but you’re still at the mercy of your internet plan. If it doesn’t pack enough power, optimizing your other resources won’t solve the problem. Make sure that your data pipeline is sufficient for your business needs. It may be that spending a little more on internet access is an investment that can generate positive returns.
Sometimes the simple stuff won’t cut it. It’s worth remembering that IT experts exist, and many can offer a competitive means to solve your internet issues. If the DIY approach isn’t enough, look for an IT services company that can get you what you need for a price you like.