While We’re Waiting for Whatever…

While we’re waiting for whatever our new normal will be, it’s a good guess you’ll need to beef up your network capability to handle more business, education and entertainment. At “Chez Rosenthal,” we’re taking hard-wired Wi-Fi outside to enjoy the summer. Our experience may fit your needs.

We’re doing it so that we can expand our internet coverage to our deck and part of our yard to accommodate four devices running simultaneously. As we all spend more time at home and the summer heat is not oppressive, it’s a good way to give everyone in the family more options. With smart TVs, you might consider it a good way to get a TV outside, and you’ll have no worries if you use an ethernet connection or have a network access point outside.

For my house, it was a fairly straightforward process, including drilling my own holes in my own house. We were able to run wire behind walls and under floors to get to the back of the house, and once we got outside, we put the wire inside some PVC pipe. Our only expenses were for the wire, the pipe and some connectors.

Getting more of a hybrid system of wired and wireless networking in your home may be a good solution. You’ll need a strong network if you find you’re still working from home and your kids are doing all or part of their classroom time and homework online. Whenever you can plug your device into a network node, you’ll get a stronger signal. And the closer you can be to a node, the stronger your signal will be. Getting a wired node outside the walls of your house eliminates the need for the signal to fight its way through the wall.

We have had more calls for help with networking as we’ve spent more time at home and are streaming more content. In older homes with thicker plaster walls, wiring is sometimes the best solution. The alternative is to place a series of nodes to get the signal to the farthermost places from your router or gateway, but it can fall short due to signal strength losses. In the case of a network in a two-story penthouse in an apartment building, we could only use a series of mesh units because we couldn’t go through the concrete and steel between the floors.

If you’re doing renovations or an addition to your existing home – or building a new home – we highly recommend hard wiring your network access points. Your electrician can do it at the same time they do the electrical wiring.

We can help you boost your network’s strength by recommending where to put hardwired connections and mesh nodes. We’re OK with drilling holes in our own walls but not in yours. Once the wiring is in, we can place the mesh nodes and configure everything for maximum network capability. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

‘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.

Big-Picture Solution

When a new client wanted to go wireless in their new space, we found a way to wire it now and avoid future problems. The client is happy we offered the alternative, and that’s what got us the business.

There were two compelling reasons to wire the space.

The first reason was that the company, which does interior space planning, uses printers and plotters that cannot be connected over a wireless network. We noticed that when we went to their old offices the night before the move to disconnect all their systems.

The second compelling reason was that the opportunity was there.

Here’s how those two reasons fit together.

We had blocked out an entire day to install their equipment in their new office space, and that turned out to be a good move. From studying the map of where everything was supposed to go, we had envisioned a half-day of work. But experience has taught us that something always pops up.

When we arrived at the new offices, we noticed immediately that the floor below was vacant and that there was easy access to the space between the two floors. Our client’s new offices also had floor jacks to accommodate computers and work stations.

To our way of thinking, that was a bonus. We started to wire the office. The client agreed with our belief that wired systems are more reliable than wireless, and because there was wide-open space, it would be less disruptive and less expensive to do the wiring while moving in.

In the few weeks they’ve been in their new space, they’ve been running at top speed with no signal interruptions. That’s the benefit an experienced IT service firm can bring to a business. If you’re moving, we can look at your equipment, your new space and your business needs and help you optimize your information management system.

If you’re planning a move, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to look at your new space and plan a setup that works for you.

Brave New Wireless World

It’s a wireless world out there, and it’s getting “wirelesser” every day. Not getting tangled up in wires can make for carefree experiences – as long as you’re not careless about your online presence. That’s especially true as you travel this summer. Here are some safety tips.

First, understand that we are not only living in a wireless world, we’re living in a Bluetooth world. To get it down to very simple terms, Bluetooth enables you to set up a short-distance radio broadcast/reception system, and for most applications, it’s a plug-and-play deal. You pair your mobile device with whatever broadcast system you’ll be using, and you’re good to go.

If you’re flying somewhere this summer, you’ll likely use a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for your inflight entertainment. Airlines are eliminating the seatback screens and related systems to reduce weight and space requirements. Mobile-device manufacturers are eliminating external ports for the same reasons. As a result, you’ll be likely to watch inflight movies or TV shows from the plane’s Wi-Fi network or watch programming you’ve already downloaded to your device or computer. And, you’re also likely to use Bluetooth headphones or earbuds.

Besides inflight entertainment, Bluetooth systems can be used to connect your phone or tablet to guided tours in museums, parks and other attractions. In addition, many cameras use Bluetooth to upload photo cards to mobile devices or computers.

Because it’s a broadcast system, there are security holes. You can start by trying to make sure your device or computer has Level Four Bluetooth security. That has the strongest authentication protocol, which can help your security. Newer phones, tablets and computers are more like to have this capability. Regardless of the security level, here are a few steps to help you secure your devices:

  • Make them “non-discoverable” when you have them in use. Turn off Bluetooth when you aren’t using the device.
  • Use headphones or earbuds with signal encryption.
  • Download and install all software updates and security patches.
  • Maintain physical control of enabled devices and “unpair” any that are lost or stolen.

Second, more and more of us are using Wi-Fi hotspots to enjoy the many benefits of internet connectivity while we’re on the go. Remember, you’re on unsecured – and untrusted – networks when you use these hotspots, so practice good security. You should especially make sure you and your family members avoid online banking or shopping on these networks, and that includes making online changes to your travel reservations or using a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft.

Using a cellular network is safer, but make sure you have uploaded all the latest upgrades for your OS and apps and all security patches. Also make sure you have new, strong passwords and change them while you travel.

You might want to couple this with reviewing and/or deactivating any accounts you no longer use. A client recently got an email from Microsoft about an account that might have been compromised. We helped verify it was a legitimate message and traced it back to a free account or something that wound up being based in Turkey. He was able to access it and change the password; no harm, no foul.

However, it does raise the point that security and privacy laws vary among countries, and that you can’t depend on any company or government to guarantee your privacy and security when you’re connected to the internet or a Wi-Fi network.

We can help you make sure you have your security bases covered before you travel domestically or internationally – or even if you’re just going around the corner. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your travel-security needs.