Home Wireless – Visible Disappointment/Invisible Risks

A quality Internet connection does not guarantee high performance on your home network. How your devices and computers access that connection may negate any benefits obtained by paying for more bandwidth from your Internet service provider (ISP). Many users meet with the frustration of outstanding performance on their wired network devices while their wireless electronics suffer.

The superiority of wired connections is due to their long history in the marketplace. Routers and switches as old as five years are likely to support at least a 100Mbps connection. That is more than adequate to display several HDTV streams at 18Mbps, or a couple of HD Video streams at 40Mbps.

Home wireless’ popularity is more recent and tied to the rapid success of smart-phone technology. A wireless router or access point purchased five years ago may not support a bandwidth above 54Mbps. Combine that with a wireless network interface card (NIC) on a connected device that goes even slower and the issue becomes apparent.

Wireless networks must also contend with problems of signal interference, noise, bandwidth theft, and intrusion that are less likely to affect wired networks. In a business environment, there are many ways these can be dealt with in order to maximize cost efficiency. At home, it is best to remember, “n is your friend”.

802.11n is the latest wireless networking specification for which there is equipment available to the consumer. It offers speeds up to 150Mbps, on par with a wired connection. Several issues must be understood in order to securely achieve those speeds, though.

First are the issues of interference and noise. Just as a closed door can muffle a sound, the conditions that surround your wireless router can dampen its signal. Place wireless routers in a central location, as high as safety and aesthetics will permit. Keep them well away from objects with metal surfaces such as filing cabinets. Avoid the use of cordless phones (cell phones are fine) and microwaves when performing activities that require high bandwidth since they create noise on the same frequencies as the wireless network.

Other problems are with bandwidth theft and network intrusion. Since wireless networks must broadcast in the same fashion as a radio station, anyone with the proper technology can listen to the network’s traffic. Wireless encryption is required to protect the information that travels between a wireless device and router. Wireless network security prevents unauthorized users from getting easy access to an Internet connection or computers and devices on a home network.
Finally, older wireless devices may simply lack the required bandwidth and communication abilities to take advantage of modern wireless routers. In most cases, a laptop can be upgraded, but an older consumer device may not provide that luxury. If a device does not support 802.11n speeds and security protocols, having an “n” router alone won’t improve your Internet experience.

Wireless networking poses many challenges in the realms of connectivity, bandwidth and security. The convenience it provides comes at the expense of more complicated setup and installation requirements. Failure to respect those requirements invites disappointing performance, along with the potential for theft of service and data. Allow us to help with your home or business wireless needs.

R.O. Anderson Engineering offers various IT services, including installation and configuration of wireless networks. Go to http://www.roanderson.com/solutions/information-technology-solutions/ for more information.