Let's Talk Internet Speed and Reliability
Updated: Oct 7
Unlike in the days when the internet quite literally came in the mail and got billed per minute for use, having fast and reliable internet is more important than ever. Our everyday lives seemingly revolve around being connected. When that connection falters, we as a collective tend to get very antsy. This article goes over the importance of your network components, and touches on a few troubleshooting tricks we've learned over the last 30 years in business!
Living in an era where technology advances by the minute is truly an exciting, and occasionally mind-blowing thing. In fact, it could even be construed as occasionally difficult to deal with, because things move forward at such a rapid rate now that many of us find it hard to keep up with the latest tech. I think phones are an excellent representation of that; Buy an iPhone 13 today, and the 14 is out tomorrow with some new bit of tech that the 13 didn’t have.
One issue that most citizens of Earth face now is that all of this new technology for the most part requires a stable, secure, high-speed internet connection. Network speed and reliability are currently so important that numerous companies have devoted their entire business model to developing solutions for maintaining or improving upon any or all of those criteria.
In my own home, for example, we have TONS of devices that require an internet connection. We have phones, TVs, streaming boxes, stereos, tablets, computers, even our car has Wi-Fi now! We use the internet to watch TV, listen to music, play games online with our friends from all over the world…. I use it to home school two of my kids, and sometimes I even use it for work! In our world, if the internet goes down it brings everything in our life to a screeching halt. We are suddenly found wandering around the house wondering what to do. (Okay, that may be a bit hyperbolic, but you get the idea.)
Network security is another hot topic in the world of internet technology. At this point, most of us keep some sort of very sensitive information on our devices, whether it’s using Apple Pay or PayPal, or accessing your medical records via your doctor’s website. The last thing any of us wants to have happen is a security breach wherein someone absconds with our bank account information. This is especially true in the corporate setting. Security breaches can cost people and companies alike their whole livelihood.
Fortunately, as mentioned previously, there are a number of companies who exist solely to combat all of the negatives that can be associated with living an online life.
So, what are some of those solutions?
· Routers – A router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. Routers perform the traffic directing functions on the internet. Data sent through the internet, such as a web page or an email, is in the form of data packets. A packet is typically forwarded from one router to another through the networks that constitute an internetwork (the internet) until it reaches its destination node.
· Access Points – In computer networking, a wireless access point (WAP), or more generally just access point (AP), is a networking hardware device that allows other Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. This is not the same as a hotspot, which is simply a physical location where Wi-Fi access is available.
· Wi-Fi/Network Management – A network management system (NMS) is an application or set of applications that lets network engineers manage a network’s independent components inside a bigger network management framework and performs several key functions. An NMS identifies, configures, monitors, updates, and troubleshoots network devices (both wired and wireless) in a network. Then, a system management control application displays the performance data collected from each network component, allowing network engineers to make changes as needed.
· Surge Protection/Power Conditioners – A power conditioner is a device used to protect sensitive loads by smoothing out voltage fluctuations such as spikes, transients, and electrical noise. It can be electronic, or transformer based.
· Wire/Cable Management – Cable management is the organization of cables connected to electrical devices. It involves organizing your cables and hardware in a way that makes it easy to identify and troubleshoot.
· Wi-Fi Extenders/Boosters – A Wi-Fi range extender, sometimes called a range expander, is a type of wireless repeater that is used to expand the reach of a wireless LAN. They are intended to improve Wi-Fi coverage within a location.
As far as companies that offer the best solutions, our go-to tends to be Araknis Networks. All of their products are specially crafted to work together with ease. This makes for an incredibly fast, reliable network that is both easy to get installed and keep up to date.
Here is a short list of just a few of our favorite Araknis products:
· WAPs – Araknis designs its wireless access points to be fast, reliable, and hassle-free. They offer four distinct series, and even an outdoor option! We’re positive that you’ll have no problem finding a product that best fits your needs. These components are sleek and compact and come with cloud-based device management software, which we will discuss a bit later. They also have Fast Roaming, which means your wireless device will automatically connect to the strongest-signaled access point in your location.
· Routers – Araknis routers are engineered to provide you with a high-speed connection so that you can run your network hassle-free. Just like their WAPs, the routers also utilize the cloud-based device management software which gives your install team the ability to offer remote troubleshooting. Each of their routers come equipped with 1 Gbps throughput on every LAN port. This lends to faster speeds, and an overall better experience. Another important feature to mention is that each router has an embedded firewall which supports Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI), Denial of Service (DoS) prevention, WAN Request Blocking, and OpenVPN. All of these layers of network security mean it is much harder for hackers to get to your private data. Araknis’ entire line of routers support Gigabit internet. That means you don’t have to worry about which model to choose when it comes to network performance.
· Gigabit Switches – These switches are designed with both form and functionality in mind. Regardless of which series you choose, you’re going to get a VERY reliable switch that has been THOROUGHLY tested to be sure you’re getting absolutely optimal performance. They can provide an incredible 1 Gbps on every port AT THE SAME TIME. That makes these switches perfect for video streaming as well as supporting multiple high-bandwidth devices such as surveillance systems, smart TVs, gaming consoles, VoD services, and more!
It is our experience that Araknis Networks consistently provides high-quality equipment that has been rigorously tested. Our customers have always been happy with the solutions we’ve provided them with, and as the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. We love Araknis Networks equipment, and we will keep shouting it from the proverbial mountaintop to anyone who will listen.
What if I just need some general troubleshooting advice?
If you’ve ever watched the British TV hit “The IT Crowd”, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the line “have you tried turning it off and back on again”. As hilarious as it is to hear Roy drone that line every single time he answers the phone, there is a lot of truth to that. Sometimes the solution really is as simple as turning it off and back on again. If you’re experiencing slow or wonky internet, and you want to try fixing it yourself before asking for help, here is a list of things you can try:
1. Re-Evaluate your internet plan.
Sometimes, terrible internet isn’t the fault of your equipment. No matter what equipment you use, cheap OR expensive, your internet is only going to be as good as the internet plan provided by your ISP. If you’re using the cheapest internet, you’re going to get the slowest internet. Our advice? Find out what speed your package is supposed to offer, then run a speed test to see if you’re actually getting what you’re paying for. If you aren’t, contact your ISP and have them check their end. If you are, contact your ISP and find out if there are any packages that you can upgrade to that work with your budget.
2. Make sure your router is placed correctly into its environment.
If your router is not in the right place at the right time, not only are you going to get a signal that’s spotty at best, but you’re also going to waste a LOT of your router’s potential. It needs to be placed in a central location to obtain the best network coverage. Ideally, you’d want it positioned closest to the areas of the location you use the internet the most. Things like walls, furniture, and massive home décor can also cause some obstruction of your Wi-Fi signal. For best results, you want to avoid the following: - Placing your router towards an outer wall.
- Installing the router near devices that use electromagnetic waves
- Hiding the router behind furniture.
3. Turn it off and back on again…
The technical term for this is actually “power cycling”, so if a tech support agent ever asks you if you’ve power cycled your equipment, now you know that that just means to turn it off and back on again. This tip works when the connectivity issue stems from some type of radio frequency interference. Generally, though, this doesn’t mean just hit the power button a couple of times. It actually means to unplug it from its power source for 15-20 seconds, re-plug it to the power source, THEN turn it back on. It’s actually recommended that you do this at least once a month. This reboot gives the router time to choose the best channel with the least frequency interference.
4. If you aren’t using it, shut it down.
Obviously, the more devices you have connected to your Wi-Fi, the worse your experience is going to be. Each device draws a lot of signal, and too many devices can quickly overwhelm a router, drastically reduce browsing speeds, and seriously degrade the reliability of your connection. “Digital Congestion” is incredibly common, and honestly can be solved simply by mindful use. Prioritizing which devices need to be connected to the network at all times and which ones don’t will ensure that you’re not putting too much of a strain on your network’s functionality.
5. Stop putting off updates!
We know. Waiting for updates is about as fun as watching paint dry, but it is an absolutely necessary tedium in the tech world. These updates are crucial for repairing bugs and fixing speed issues. Some newer models update automatically, but most manufacturers require a slightly different process. Go to your ISP or the manufacturer of the router’s website. There should be a page dedicated to explaining how to update your firmware. Of course, if you’d rather, just give us a call and we can walk you through how to update your particular router’s firmware.
6. Remember that sometimes it’s better to be hardwired.
Our world has gone wireless, and it seems that many of us forget that wires are still in existence. If you’re getting really slow speeds or an unstable connection, you should keep in mind that running an ethernet cable to your device is usually a faster and much more stable option. Probably the biggest advantage of being connected this way is that ethernet cables cannot be affected by physical obstructions. A cable running from one side of the house to the other will experience no noticeable loss of signal strength. This may not always be convenient, but it is one of the simpler troubleshooting steps we can advise.
7. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade?
Wear and tear happens, and routers are no exception to that rule. If you want the best performance, you’re going to want to have the latest technology. In your pursuit of reliable, fast internet, an old, outdated or worn router is going to absolutely be a hindrance. Which router works best for you will depend on many things. We’d be happy to go over that with you in person if you think an upgrade is going to be the best solution for you. What we ask that you keep in mind is you get what you pay for. If you’re paying for premium service, using a budget router is kind of like shooting yourself in the foot.
Please make note: REPLACING YOUR MODEM/ROUTER EVERY 3-4 YEARS IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
8. Boost or extend your Wi-Fi signal.
These are handy little devices that plug into your wall, tap into your Wi-Fi signal, and extend it to other parts of your home. Basically, this helps with any “dead zones” in your home or workplace. If you have areas in your house that get absolutely no signal, an extender may be an appropriate solution for you. Some of these boosters can extend your signal up to 3000 sp ft, but of course that will heavily depend on the capabilities of the device as well as your router.
9. You’ve probably never heard of it, but a powerline extender kit could also work for you.
While not quite as effective as a Wi-Fi booster/extender, powerline extenders are still a very simple solution. The kits typically come with two devices, one of which is plugged into your router with an Ethernet cable and then plugged into a wall socket, and the other device which is plugged into the area where you’d like to have a connection. These can provide both wired and wireless connections.
10. Lock down your Wi-Fi.
It may seem like an obvious question, but how strong is your Wi-Fi password? Do you have a guest wi-fi network with no password at all? If your neighbors are piggybacking off of your signal, you are undoubtedly experiencing issues. These
users leech your bandwidth like crazy. A weak password also opens up your
network to hacking or signal hogging.
11. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.
Viruses and malware are not only dangerous to your devices, but they can also absolutely bog down your computer and cause serious connection issues. Antivirus software is crucial to guarding your devices, keeping your personal information safe, and making sure all of your processes run smoothly. If you do have the software, make sure you have automatic updating turned on so that this process happens effortlessly. Automatic updates along with efficient antivirus software will ensure that unnecessary activity is not depleting your Wi-Fi strength and quality.
A fast, reliable internet connection is no longer a luxury; It is a necessity. Trudging through a slow connection and encountering frequent signal drops is not something many of us are content to live with anymore. Some of the root causes are beyond your control, but other remain very much in your control. If you have tried all of our troubleshooting tips and are still experiencing poor internet quality, contact Home Theatre Concepts and our experts will get you going in the correct direction whether it means a new installation, or just some troubleshooting over the phone. We are here, and we are beyond happy to help!