WiFi has become an essential business tool. So much so that a slow or unreliable connection can adversely impact staff productivity and customer service.
But how can you ensure that you’re getting the most out of your wireless internet solution without calling in the experts?
Here are some quick and easy ways to boost WiFi speeds in your organisation.
Zero-cost ways to boost your WiFi speeds
Before considering solutions with a cost attached, there are various other options to try out, and rule out, which may solve the problem of slow business WiFi.
1. Identify whether your internet is the problem
WiFi networks can become sluggish and unresponsive for many reasons. Your first task, therefore, should be to accurately diagnose the problem by checking your WiFi signal strength.
There are various ways to do this, but by far the simplest is to place your laptop close to your router and then run a free speed test. If the speed you receive doesn’t improve, then the issue may be with the internet connection itself, in which case you will need to contact your provider for a solution.
2. Change where you place your router
It may seem obvious, but placement and positioning of your router are key to achieving a fast and stable network. Your router should be located as centrally as possible between all your connected devices. This is because WiFi signals radiate outward in all directions, like concentric circles.
Lastly, ensure that your router lies flat, rather than sitting it on its side. If antennas are present, have them pointing upwards and parallel to each other as this is the optimum position for the best signal.
3. Protect yourself from piggybacking
The practice of ‘piggybacking’ is when somebody in range (usually a neighbour) uses your WiFi connection without your permission. This is far more widespread than you may think. At home it can be an annoyance, but in business, it can mean slow speeds, lost productivity and an exposed network. Change the password on your router regularly so anybody using your connection without permission (such as people that have left your company) will be removed from the network.
A more permanent solution is to use Microsoft’s Active Directory to assign and enforce security protocols. If you aren’t sure how to go about this, take a look at this Active Directory tutorial.
4. Remove any local interference
Until recently WiFi only operated at a frequency of 2.4GHz, the same as many everyday items such as Bluetooth headsets, cordless telephones and microwaves. The latter, in particular, are real signal killers, so ensure that there are none present in the immediate area surrounding your router.
The introduction of dual-band routers, operating at 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, means you may also have the option of changing to the 5Ghz frequency. Doing this can help enormously and the process is quite simple. However, the step-by-step process is different with every provider, so give yours a call if you’re not sure how to do it.
5. Change your router channel
Just as you can change frequency dual-band routers, you can also change the channel your WiFi operates on. WiFi routers commonly default to a certain channel, meaning people find themselves sharing a clogged channel which, again, can result in poor connectivity. The good news is there’s a simple solution – change the channel. As this works best at 2.4Ghz, it’s a solution particularly suited to older routers.
While the process is quite straightforward, it does differ slightly depending on your provider and hardware. So, search the internet for a guide specific to your hardware. If you struggle, a quick call to your service provider should have you channel hopping in no time at all.
A pro-tip is to remember, but only when operating at 2.4Ghz, is always switch to channel 1, 6 or 11. This is because these don’t overlap with each other, so it will help deliver the best results. Channel 4 overlaps channel 6 quite heavily, so this should be avoided.
Low-cost ways to boost your WiFi speeds
In the event that the above free tips and tricks don’t work, you might want to consider these low-cost alternatives.
1. Install a WiFi booster
One of the most common ways to address poor WiFi speeds is to boost your existing signal. There are various devices available to help achieve this, but installing a signal repeater is a popular choice.
This can be as simple as adding an extra wireless router to your network. It’s a quick, simple and inexpensive solution which can help double the distance your WiFi signal travels in most situations.
2. Invest in powerline networking
Powerline networking technology uses the wiring in your building to transmit WiFi at speeds that you would expect from a wired network. Simple to install, these adapters look just like any other electrical adapter – for example, a phone charger – except each unit is fitted with an Ethernet port.
Just plug one unit into a wall socket near to your router and connect using an Ethernet cable. You can then plug other units into wall sockets wherever the signal is weak and connect laptops, PCs or any other devices in the same manner.
Many adapters have wireless capabilities so you can connect via WiFi and still have a much stronger signal. For little outlay, you can have wireless hotspots wherever you wish.
3. Use MIMO high-speed access points
MIMO – meaning multiple input and multiple output – relies on the latest antenna technology to ensure that the signal from your router is received and transmitted without delay or disruption. Customers that use a MIMO access point (AP) report that they experience speeds up to eight times faster.
There is, however, a greater cost attached. MIMO hardware can cost anywhere from £180 for a domestic unit, to over £500 for an office system. However, it is a solid solution with no real drawbacks, other than your business eventually outgrowing the solution.
4. Invest in a business-class WiFi solution
If your organisation relies on a wireless internet connection, I’d recommended that you invest in a business-class WiFi solution.
This will provide you with the latest 802.11ac standard, which can deliver speeds of up to 1.3Gbs, using a dual-band router operating at 5Ggz.
All the tips covered here have the potential to optimise a sluggish WiFi network. However, when considering wireless internet access for your business, you shouldn’t just look what you need today, but rather what your future requirements may be.
If you are projecting growth, for example, then it may be a false economy to spend money patching up and boosting a network that you will soon need to upgrade anyway.
And so, with this in mind, my final tip would be to contact your internet service provider and discuss the available options to your business.
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