‘30’ and New Routers

Thirty seems to be the magic number for wireless devices connected to your Wi-Fi network. Many homes can easily have 30 or more devices and getting proper signals to all of them can be like trying to squeeze 10 lanes of traffic into four. Moving to a router that encompasses Wi-Fi 6 capabilities is an electronic way to expand your in-home “information superhighway” to the 10 lanes you need for your devices perform as designed.

Accommodating 30 wireless devices is hardly overkill. In fact, it may be the minimum capacity for the average home. Think about what you might have and what you could have.

At last count, we have 64 wireless devices in our home, including our mailbox. Yes, the USPS mailbox that’s located at the bottom of our steep driveway. I really don’t feel like making several trips down to the street – and back up the driveway – just to see if the mail has been delivered. I can also remotely see every time the mailbox is opened, which can alert us to possible theft.

Even without a connected mailbox, many homes have Alexa devices or smart speakers in multiple rooms, or you may have Sonos speakers in multiple rooms tied to your entertainment center. If you’ve cut the cable cord, you’re streaming video to TVs or other devices – many of them in 4K. Family and friends could be using the internet simultaneously from your network on computers, tablets or phones, and then you may have number of smart devices for home security and convenience. Oh, don’t forget that 5G cellular standards are just around the corner, and they’ll generate a lot more traffic on your network.

If we learned anything from the movie Back to the Future, it’s that you can never anticipate where technology can go. Things that were thought to be way into the future then have been commonplace for several years.

Wi-Fi 6 comes with several upgrades that will significantly improve wireless capabilities. In operation, they improve efficiency by dividing the allotted radio spectrum into smaller units and adding new data channels to handle even more data. Other enhancements include smarter traffic management and less wasted battery life on connected devices. As a result, you’ll get better wireless connectivity, smoother performance and faster speeds for every device on your network.

You can expect the individual changes in Wi-Fi 6 to add up to a maximum throughput of over 10Gbps under ideal conditions. Right now, we consider 1Gbps to be the gold standard. Wi-Fi 6 will be able to keep a step ahead of the diversity of devices in homes to allow simultaneous 4K video streaming, gaming and use by a wide variety of smart home products, such as door locks, thermostats and remotely controlled light switches. And if you have a house full of gamers, we don’t need to tell you how bigger, faster Wi-Fi networks can make life better.

As our population advances, Wi-Fi 6 could even lead to more devices and systems that can help the elderly age in place in their homes. And it could make artificial intelligence (AI) a more effective enhancement for new technological tools. Who knows where it could lead?

As we write this, Wi-Fi 6 routers are just coming on the market – with Wi-Fi 7 lurking in the wings. Here are some router replacement tips to help you take advantage of the still-new Wi-Fi 6 technology.

First, think about if you really need it now. Most of the devices you now have may not be able to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6, even though it will improve your network’s performance. If you don’t find your devices are choking your network, you could wait. There’s also pricing. Even though you’ll see a lot of “special” prices during the holiday shopping season, prices are likely to come down later.

Second, even though the new routers are fast, their speed is still limited by the speed your ISP (internet service provider) delivers. It’s like having a really great road and a not-so-fast car. You won’t be able to go fast enough to take advantage of the possible thrills and chills.

Third, look for things like mesh net capability, the number of ports and the speeds of the ports. Then, try to imagine the number of devices you might add in the next few years and what you’ll ask them to do. You’ll need to think about those things to do a more accurate cost/benefit analysis.

Finally, consider the age of your current router. If it’s more than five years old, it may not be able to support better security measures, and that may be a more important consideration than pure speed.

We can help you decide about your router and replacement options. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs.

It’s All About the Switch

As data pipelines and Wi-Fi networks get bigger and faster, you need to pay attention to the switch, the connector that brings the service into your office or home and sends it to your network. You may need a hybrid system that includes an up-to-date switch and some hardwiring to unleash the full power of the internet service that you pay for.

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Choose the Right Router

As we add more traffic to our Wi-Fi networks in the office and at home, choosing the right router is critical for performance and security. If your router is more than a few years old, the combination of improved technology and the probable loss of full power due to wear and tear means you should consider investing in a new system. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune.

How do you know it’s time for a new router? The first sign is sluggish performance, and it’s a subjective call. Whether you use your router for business or home entertainment, you can notice that data just isn’t moving throughout your location as fast as you’d like. With today’s demands for moving more data faster, your router could be worn out or not have the capacity to meet your needs.

Routers do wear out over time. Heat can damage internal components, and that slows them down. Newer routers have fresher components, and they meet better performance protocols. This is especially true when it comes to dual-band routers. Older routers tend to operate on the 2.4 GHz wireless band, where they share space with your other household products, such as cordless phones and even your garage-door opener. That creates a lot of interference that affects network performance. This problem is more likely to affect home offices and small retail systems. In some homes, whether used for home offices or as converted office space, multiple stories and thicker walls require more powerful routers to send signals where needed.

Dual-band routers work on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless bands, and that gives you options. You can set some systems to run on the 2.4 GHz band and use the 5GHz band for managing bigger data capacities. Some routers even allow you to run on two 5GHz bands. For a home office, a home with multiple devices (computers, mobile devices and smart TVs), a business in a converted home, or a small retail space, this allows you to dedicate bands to specific uses. Think of it as having a slow lane, an express lane, and a lane dedicated to buses and trucks.

For a home or small office or retail use, look for a router with at least four 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) Ethernet ports to connect wired devices such as desktop PCs, network-attached storage drives and home-automation hubs. A USB port makes it easy to plug in a printer or a USB drive and share it across the network, but with two ports you can do both.

You can manage how your Wi-Fi network is being used with parental controls, Quality of Service (QoS) options, and a guest-network feature. Parental controls and QoS are for home use. The latter helps you assign network priorities for applications and clients, such as downloading files, running printers or managing streaming to TVs or devices. You can also manage priorities for gaming systems.

A guest network for a home or business lets you create a separate network to offer Wi-Fi connectivity to guests without leaving your entire network vulnerable. This lets them connect to the Internet, but doesn’t give them access to your files, printers, and other connected devices.

Wireless routers for businesses have improved tremendously. To meet the complexity and requirements of running a wireless network these days, routers now have a much more varied feature set, including hardware that is often found in computers. You can find systems with dual- and triple-band connectivity, as well as a slew of other features usually found on far more expensive enterprise-grade models.

Priorities for business users differ from most consumer users. Security, support, remote access, business-grade VPN, WAN redundancy, connectivity options and scalability are critical. However, this doesn’t mean that some consumer routers cannot be used as business routers, especially in a home office environment.

We can help you find a router that meets your networking needs and help you find the best location and configurations to maximize performance. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to answer your questions about router selection and help you with setup and settings configurations.