Improving your home network
Home networking is something that we've come to rely on daily, whether it be wireless or wired. With more and more connected devices making their way into our lives, having a fast and reliable network is almost a must. While having a perfect network may not be achievable in some cases, we've got some tips to help improve your home network.
Improve your wireless signal
All wireless routers come pre-configured to broadcast on a specific channel, typically channel 6, and while this may not seem like a big deal it can get congested. The more networks that operate on the same wireless channel, the more interference that can occur when trying to use it. On your computer you can use a tool called inSSIDER to assess your current wireless situation. inSSIDER will provide you with a graphical image showing which wireless networks your computer is picking up, as well as their operating channel, signal strength, security type, and more. The screen you want to pay attention is the graph that shows you wireless networks and their corresponding channel. If you notice that your network is on a congested channel try changing it to something like channel 1 or 11.
Get network access in weak locations
As previously mentioned, inSSIDER can show you wireless signal strength. This is a great way to move around your place to locate those dead zones. If you notice an area of your house or apartment has weak wireless coverage, but you need to get coverage there, something like powerline networking may work. Powerline works by plugging an adapter into two outlets, one source and one destination, which establishes a network connection between the two adapters. This essentially creates a wired connection to another room in your house or apartment if wireless just isn't working. Powerline is capable of delivering 100+Mbps (megabits per second), or roughly 12+MBps (megabytes per second), but this will be dependent on the wiring in your residence and circuits the devices reside on. Ars Technica tested a few adapters and found they "don't seem to provide enough of an advantage over the flexibility and throughout of 802.11n to be worth the cost unless you're networking fixed devices that lack built-in WiFi."
Upgrade to wireless N, or even AC
Since wireless networking for computers has been around it has gone through various standards. You may have heard of 802.11a, b, g, n, and now ac. We wont go into details about what each offers, but with each new wireless standard, speeds have increased. Current network estimates have wireless N (802.11n) providing speeds up to 600Mbps, while wireless AC (802.11ac) can provide speeds of at least 500Mbps; one thing to remember when reading networking estimates is that they're theoretical, not actual. If your wireless devices have been suffering from slower speeds upgrading to a wireless N or AC router can help. Wireless N has been a standard for a couple of years now so if your device is from within the last three years chances are it's capable of wireless N. Wireless AC is much newer and still in draft, kind of like beta, so less devices support it right now. If you choose to go with AC you may need extra equipment like a wireless bridge or USB adapter, so just keep that in mind.