Wi-Fi has gone from a perk for employees and customers to a mandatory feature for most workplaces. If you don’t have a dedicated IT department, however, you can run into the usual Wi-Fi problems like poor range, spotty connection and weak security.
Those are big topics, so I’m going to stick with range and connection quality in this Tip. I’ll put a link to tips on improving business Wi-Fi security at the end.
Some of the problems with range and connection are down to your office layout and the size of your building. In the new Komando office, for example, it takes six routers to cover the entire thing. However, you’re probably going to be dealing with a smaller space.
Still, the same principles apply in most places. You’ll just need some trial and error to figure out how to best apply these to your situation. So without further ado, let’s get started.
1. CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION
It’s important to remember that your Wi-Fi antenna is omnidirectional, i.e. the signal goes every direction equally. In other words, if you put your router along an outside wall, you’re sending half your signal outside. That’s fine if you run a coffee shop with a patio, but not great if all your workers are indoors.
For the best all-around signal inside, place your router as close as possible to the middle of the office. You should also pay attention to what’s around the router. I know you’re tempted to hide the nest of cables, but it’s better to have it out in the open.
Putting it next to a wall or inside a bookcase can partially block the signal. And definitely keep it away from metal since that can absorb the signal.
You’ll also want to keep it away from a microwave or a cordless telephone. Those put out 2.4 gigahertz frequencies, which is one of the main frequencies routers use. That causes interference, which can cause signal problems.
If for some reason you can’t put the router in the center of your area or there are rooms outside the router’s range, look into Wi-Fi extenders. For less than $50, these simple units can boost your Wi-Fi into any area you want.
2. TWEAK THE SETTINGS
If you’ve moved the router and it didn’t help as much as you’d hoped, then you might need to tweak a few router settings to reduce interference. This mostly applies to 802.11g and older 802.11n routers running a 2.4GHz network. If you have an 802.11n router purchased in the last few years or an 802.11ac router, it should handle this for you automatically.
You can access the settings by opening a browser and typing in the router’s IP address. The IP address will be in your router’s manual. It will also tell you the default router username and password if you’ve never changed them. Can’t find your manual?
Once you’re in the settings, you can adjust the router broadcast channel to reduce interference with other routers. Most 802.11n and g routers are set to channel 1, 6 or 11, and you should stick to one of those. For example, if your router is set to channel 1, try switching to 6 or 11 and seeing if that improves your signal.
If you want to see what’s really happening in the invisible world of radio waves, grab a program likeVistumbler to run on your laptop or the Wi-Fi Analyzer app for your Android gadget. Both will show you the routers in your area and what channels they’re using.
The Wi-Fi Analyzer app can also show you your Wi-Fi signal strength as you walk around the office. You can see where it’s strongest and weakest. You might find that your signal isn’t as weak as you think. In that case, your connection problems could be other people stealing your Wi-Fi bandwidth.
If you have a newer dual-band router, it can broadcast at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz at the same time. You’ll want to activate the 5GHz network and tell as many people as possible to connect to that one.
Not only is 5GHz faster, that airspace is less prone to interference, so you get a cleaner signal and don’t have to adjust channels. Plus, taking people off the 2.4GHz network will improve it for the remaining users.
If you don’t have a dual-band router…
3. BUY A NEW ROUTER
If you’re still using an 802.11b, 802.11g or older 802.11n router, you should upgrade to a new dual-band 802.11n or 802.11ac router. Newer routers have better range and faster speeds, which saves you the time you’d spend messing around with an older model.
Not only that, many new routers include a “guest” network. This is a second network that you can reserve for visiting clients, customers or employees’ personal gadgets. It keeps them separate from your main business network so they can’t cause problems.
That’s just one security Tip you need to know with a business Wi-Fi network. Find out how to keep hackers and shady employees from using your Wi-Fi to steal from you or hurt your business in other ways.