A fast, reliable network is essential for employee productivity and for many operational processes to work seamlessly. The speed and reliability of wireless networks have improved significantly over the past decade, but that doesn’t mean that many off-the-shelf products don’t suffer from connectivity issues that range from patchy connectivity to complete outages.
The evolution of Wi-Fi technology
A number of standards were started in the 1990s and continue to be improved upon today – standards with technical names that the Wi-Fi Alliance uses such as 802.11ax. Recent examples include the extended range 802.11ah, which goes beyond the normal networks in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz space. This means it operates on a lower frequency (its range is longer) and has data speeds of up to 347Mbps.
It’s worth keeping an eye out for new standards that can help your business to ensure it can make the most of wireless technologies without paying over the odds for energy consumption now the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more mainstream.
Despite the leaps in Wi-Fi technology and standards, here are some of the key reasons why your business may not have the connectivity that it should have and how you can help to fix the issue.
1. The out-of-range router
One of the most common reasons that an internet connection is slow is still one of the simplest – because it is too far from the router. The further users are from the router, the more unreliable your connection will be.
Depending on the size of your business and building, it may be worth installing further Wi-Fi access points so you’re not relying on just one router. This can also help your network cope with the increasing number of devices that employees are using in the workplace. It’s better to have more coverage than necessary to reduce the risk of bottlenecks.
But even with the router visible, there can be issues in getting a strong signal because of other Wi-Fi networks and large obstacles such as walls and furniture. The best way of finding out how to optimise your Wi-Fi network is by creating a Wi-Fi heatmap using a Wi-Fi heatmap software tool. This enables you to see exactly where the Wi-Fi signal is strong and help with suggestions of what you can do to remedy areas where there is a weak signal.
2. The Sky-streamer or Netflix-downloader
There will always be those employees who use the work Wi-Fi network for their own personal reasons. Whether that is for social media, streaming sport on Sky or downloading an episode of their favourite show on Netflix, employees will expect to use the office Wi-Fi in their lunch break, but this can hinder the quality of the service for other staff.
It can also have a business impact. Perhaps an employee has an important client video conference at lunchtime, which could be negatively affected by everyone else in the office using data-intensive applications at the same time.
To combat this, businesses should ensure they have quality of service (QoS) prioritisation so that tools needed for work purposes get the bandwidth they need first and other applications can use the remaining bandwidth.
3. The irritating interferers
There are a number of elements that can cause interference with your network.
Firstly, there’s the office microwave that uses the same frequency band as the Wi-Fi network. When it is in use it can cause the Wi-Fi to shut off temporarily. The best solution is to ensure the microwave is as far away from the router as possible and that it is not within the line of visibility between the router or access points as well as your employees’ devices.
Some external monitors and LCD displays emit harmonic interference, particularly in the 2.4GHz band, so it might be worth changing your access point to use 5 GHz or a lower 2.5GHz channel to get around this issue. Power sources can also cause interference so avoid locating your Wi-Fi router near power lines in a wall. External devices with poorly shielded cabling could be a factor in poor Wi-Fi signal – disconnect them or replace the cable that connects the device to your computer.
Cordless phones that operate in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz range can also cause interference while they’re in use – once again it’s worth checking to see if they’re at fault for any issues by testing calls and streaming a video simultaneously.
Interference can also come from those who don’t change the default channel on their router. Why? Because the channel is likely to already be in use by a neighbour, which can degrade your wireless performance. It’s easy enough to change the channel and may require some experimenting to see which channel provides the best signal.
4. The nearby leacher
Another form of interference could be from a leacher nearby that is using your Wi-Fi network without you knowing. To counter this, you need to make sure you have set up security for your network so that users can be authenticated and a policy can be enforced easily. The most secure businesses should be able to identify malicious activity on the network and quarantine it. While you may think it’s easy to counter this with a password, the user may have actually been given the password as a ‘guest’ and so it’s worth constantly changing your password to make sure this isn’t an issue. Protect your private network by signing up to a free trial of Cisco's SMB cloud managed security solution.
Once you solve your Wi-Fi connectivity issues, it's worth considering how you can enable a collaborative and productive workforce with the right network.
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