This article mostly applies to a business environment where wifi usage is heavier and perhaps you have multiple access points in your office but it can also be applied to a home environment as well. If you are experiencing slow wifi, trouble connecting and other issues that is cutting into your work day try some of these tips.
Measure Wifi Coverage: You don’t need to be a pro to install a free app on your smart phone and see what your wifi spectrum looks like. Below is a screenshot from a free app that I use called WiFi Analyzer that easily allows you to see what wifi networks are around you, what channel they are on and other useful information.
The below screenshot tells me what networks are nearby, what channel they are on the strength of my own network. If you’re network is close by and strong you will see a signal strength of -30 or -40. A network that is far away and weak will have a signal of -70 or higher, if your network strength is around this range consider installing another access point in that area. Changing the channel might help but most likely you are dealing with a range issue and need better access point placement or an additional unit.
The Number Of IP Addresses: This problem can often be overlooked but it could explain why some of your users can’t connect at all, it’s because the IP address pool is depleted. On your network let’s say you have 100 free IP addresses that your firewall hands out. One will be assigned to every computer, phone, tablet whether the equipment is wireless or not. If you have guests come in the door and connect they will consume IP addresses as well. There is a time range to release these IP addresses but if your time range is to set a long time, say a week or more, you can quickly run out of available IP addresses.
You should check your firewall to make sure you are maximizing the number of addresses that are available and making sure the default time limit is optimal.
WiFi Channel: You can use the same phone app I mentioned above to discover what networks are near you and what channel they are on. The only channels you want to be are 1, 6 and 11 for wireless N equipment. If you notice a large amount of networks on the same channel, say number 1, consider changing your network to 6 or 11. The less crowded your channel is the more performance you will see.
Business Grade Equipment: We’ve seen many times off the shelf consumer grade products in an office. While they may work OK you should really consider installing business grade equipment that is capable of handling more users and greater bandwidth. Some things to consider is Cisco Meraki or our favorite Ubiquiti Unifi units.
Access Point Placement: Access points should be placed on the ceiling or as high up as you can get them without any obstructions in the way and not near other appliances such as a microwave. You should also be very careful about placing access points too close together where they might interfere with each other. A popular misconception is place access points all over the place for wifi coverage everywhere but this isn’t the case.
Using the Wifi Analyzer tool you can do a survey and quickly figure out proper placement and coverage. With the Ubiquiti Unifi units you can actually set the radio power and prevent the units from overlapping with each other. With a little work and tweaking you can optimally place the units in your office for the best performance possible.
Neotech Networks is an experienced IT consulting and services company in New York City. If you would like a free consultation to discuss your tech needs please contact us.