5 things everyone needs to know about their home wireless network

Let’s face it, we all feel the need for speed and any hiccups we get along the way frustrate us to no end.  So, how do we align what we expect to what is reasonable to expect from our in-home WiFi? Let me help you help yourself.

Wireless Network

  1. You get what you pay for

A $50 router is NOT going to give you coverage in every nook and cranny of 4,000 sqft. custom built home with a basement any more than a VW Beetle is going to tow a tractor trailer. Buy the right equipment for the right size and type of space you trying to cover.  Wireless uses radio waves and while they are not the same as those to a radio or even a microwave, they can still be obstructed. If you want more info on that in an easily digestible format, check out this article. Often times, one router or gateway isn’t enough. You may very well need extenders to boost the signal in harder to reach areas.

2.  It won’t last forever

Network equipment is not suited to last forever.  While the manufacturer’s warranty is typically only one year, typically you can expect networking equipment to function about 3-5 years. That’s the last credible research I’ve seen published and my experience in the field still suggests that’s still the case. I will say, older equipment did seem to last longer, but the speed of development also increased a lot in that time period, so at times it was worthwhile to replace working equipment for newer, faster frequencies.

3.  Routers get tired too

Routers get weaker with age. It’s not uncommon for the distance a router transmits its signal to decrease over time even when other variables haven’t changed. Think of your laptop! When you first got it probably seem liked the battery lasted forrrrever.  A couple years later… not so much. While a router doesn’t have a battery like your laptop, its ability to transmit still decreases over time.

4. Watch for lightning

Networking equipment is among the most sensitive of all electronics.  Modems, routers, and switches fall victim to electrical spikes, brownouts, and interference more than your normal plugged-in contraption.  Surge suppressors, which are not the same as plain old power strips, are recommended. Some people even go as far as battery backups.

5.  Consistency equals success

This one is important, folks: Routers don’t typically fail all at once. That’s been the bane of every technician’s existence that I’ve known.  Failing routers start failing by acting peculiar. It’s not always something obvious like one port not working either. If a router doesn’t have replicable behavior from one day to the next, it’s failing. If it won’t release and renew IP addresses, it’s failing. And above all else –IF YOUR ROUTER CAN’T BE SET BACK TO FACTORY, IT HAS FAILED. Do not pass go; do not collect $200. You didn’t do something wrong, you’re not overlooking something, power cycling it will only make it chug on a little longer.  Your router is now a very tiny boat anchor. Get rid of it. Recycle it. Take it part (unplugged of course) and see what it’s made of, whatever you want to do with it! Its only value is entertainment at this point.  Replace it and move on with your life. For those of you that have gone through this already, you know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t, you can either trust me or learn the way the rest of us did – by spending 5 hours troubleshooting a failed piece of equipment baffled by unpredictable and unreplicable behavior.