In this day in age there are many different makes and types of wireless routers, repeaters, bridges and other network devices. With the growing demand for wireless connection in the home, these network devices are becoming more common in everyday life. With that being said, the need to know how to configure and secure these devices is also important. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or network engineer to make this happen but a basic understanding of how and where to place wireless access points will improve your home wireless network.
Recognizing terms you might hear in regards to home wireless devices and wireless in general will help you understand what you are buying. There are limitless resources on the internet that will help you discover and apply the best devices for your home situation. In wireless home networks the most common standard used is WiFi (Wireless fidelity) or 802.11. There are many different varieties of this standard such as 802.11g or 802.11n. For more information on this you can got to http://standards.ieee.org/about/get/802/802.11.html . The strongest and latest version of this is 802.11n. You can get home routers using this standard for a reasonable price at any local electronics store. Some common vendors are Linksys, D-Link, and Netgear. These have plug and play default configuration but you may want to add some sort of security or authentication for your wireless connections.
Placing your wireless access points in the right places is important. In my experience, people only have one router to cover their entire home and place it under their desk next to their computer. Remember that that device is sending out a WiFi signal. If it is under your desk next to something metal, it will more than likely perform as well as it should. Having one router for your entire home may work just fine. Just make sure that it is in a central location and not on the floor. Metal objects, walls, and floors will interfere with your router's wireless signals. The closer your router is to these obstructions, the more severe the interference, and the weaker your connection will be.
Reducing wireless interference is another way to improve the range and strength of you WiFi connections. 802.11g (commonly know as Wireless-G) works on the 2.4GHz frequency. You might recognize this from 2.4GHz cordless phones that might be in your home. There are number of other home wireless technologies that use that frequency such as microwave ovens, garage door openers, baby monitors and so on. Avoiding these types of electronics is one way to reduce this interference. 802.11n (Wireless-N) works on both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz frequencies and will be able to avoid anything on 2.4GHz and might be a better solution.
Changing the channel your router is broadcasting on can improve connection strength and availabilities. This is similar to how you change stations on your AM/FM radio. The three common channels wireless routers work on are 1, 6, and 11. You can change these channels on your routers configuration page under the wireless tab. Try each channel to see which one gives you the best signal. This will not require you to make any changes on you computer or wireless devices connecting to the router.
If you feel brave enough, you can upgrade the firmware of your wireless device. There are vendor firmware updates that you should be able to access from the router configuration page and download automatically. If you are feeling really brave you can use custom firmware such as DD-WRT. These custom firmware releases have a more robust feature set and can really unlock your routers potential. This is a risky thing to do if you don’t know what you are doing and is not for the faint of heart. If this is something you are wanting to try, do the research and make sure you back up your working configuration. Once again this can open many options for how you setup and improve your home network.
If you live in a really big house it gets difficult to get one wireless signal to cover the whole house. In this case you will need to place additional access points in your home. You will need to place this access point so it can see your main network. It will then need to be configured so it will pick that network up and retransmit it. This gives you an extended range of your network and covers your entire home. If you are going to do it this way it’s a good idea to get the same vendor for all of your devices. This makes the interfaces streamline and easier to manage. Placing the access point in a hallway up high will expand the range and strength of the signal.
Fine tuning and experimenting with router position and router software features is a free easy way to get the best out of your home network. In review, choosing channels and utilizing the correct 802.11 standard will help optimize your data traffic over the airwaves. Positioning of your router and access points has a great deal to do with how and where your WiFi will be accessible, keeping your firmware updated will help fix bugs and add features to the function of your router, and reducing wireless interference in your home makes for a happy connection. Remember to keep your wireless network encrypted and secure. Safe Surfing!
Brett Wutzke, CCNA