In honor of this grand occasion, here’s a handy networking checklist that most Internet-connected computer users should go through to ensure that their home/office wireless network is optimized and up-to-snuff for the new year.
#1: Give Your Network a Break (A Very Short Break)
Routers can get overworked and under-rested just like the rest of us. It is taken for granted that a router can be plugged in and basically work at full speed all the time. Well, I hate to break it to you but routers need a break as well.
There are many issues that can come into play. A router can become a bit overheated from poor placement. Make sure your router has room to breathe from its vents so it can release excess heat and perform optimally.
One of the simplest ways to recover from some of the issues that your network may be having is to “refresh your network.” If you have a simple, basic setup and have perceived a lagging or a slowing down of speeds without heavier strain or use, a quick router refresh or cycling could be all you need. At the same time you will be releasing the DHCP leases of connected devices and allowing them to reset their own wired or wireless connections from your router.
A router’s cache (stored in what is known as the NVRAM) could be overloaded with saved pages from website’s visited and downloaded. Older routers have much smaller memory sizes so this can happen very frequently especially with the increase of heavy usage that it is seeing with more and more bandwidth hungry content.
So give your router a break. It doesn’t need a hour-long lunch break (who gets those anymore?) but it does need to be power cycled (cleared) from time to time.
Do not reset the router (by holding down the reset button). Especially if you have made any changes to it as this will often lead to the loss of all your network settings. Many routers and firmwares also include the option to auto-refresh your network (especially on a schedule to make sure it is performing at its peak web-surfing performance.
How to power cycle your router:
- Unplug both the modem and the router.
- Leave them unplugged and off for about 30 seconds. This little break allows the router/modem to refresh themselves like a nap for networking equipment. This short span allows the short-term memory of these devices to clear completely.
- After 30 seconds, plug the modem back.
- Allow the modem another 15 to 20 seconds to connect. The Internet/WAN light on the modem should be light up, usually green depending on the model, to indicate it is connected.
- Plug in the router’s power cord. Now wait for the router’s lights to return to their standard blinking.
Success! You have now mastered the art of power cycling.
#2: Start a Security Schedule – Change Your Wireless Password
This is often the techie equivalent of the weight-loss resolution. At the beginning, your resolve is unwavering. After a few crazy busy days or weeks, it fails and you might just yell at yourself a bit (or e-mail yourself some hate mail.)
Pick a date. Let’s say the 7th. And on the 7th of every month, you change your wireless password (maybe even power cycle your router while you’re at it if you haven’t set that to occur automatically).
Some of less-knowledgeable members or visitors to your household may whine a bit but its your network and you are responsible for protecting it. Frequent, password changes not only make you feel safer but also allows you to boot users from using your network that may have used it in the past, but you don’t want to access it in the future.
(Another good idea for these type of users is a guest network. See below #4.)
While you are updating your password, check your wireless encryption method as well. We recommend that you never use WEP as it by far the easiest to crack. It is recommended you use a version of WPA depending on the level of security you are looking for. We have found WPA2-Personal to me the most usable in our experience.
#3: Check Your Internet Speeds
Make sure to check your wireless speeds and compare them to what you are supposed to be paying for. Are these speeds meeting what your ISP is claiming on a regular basis? You are paying for it, make sure you are getting the most out of your connection through optimizing the network conditions locally as well as connecting with your Internet provider
#4: Contemplate Network Improvements & Strategies
After you’ve done the basics of network maintenance, is your network still under-performing? It might be time to make some changes.
First off, if you have bought some gadgets this holiday season like the iPhone, iPad, Android Tablet, Roku, WDTV Live, don’t forget you’ve added a plethora of new bandwidth suckers to your wireless equation. You are keeping up to date with all the latest techie toys for your pockets and messenger bags but have you thought about the backbone of how these devices are going to work in your home? The router, of course! Wireless-N devices deserve a Wireless-N capable router.
If you are a tweaker at heart and believe that you can solve the ailments of the network, you may just need a new, affordable networking base to provide you with those abilities. Would you drive a new Mustang without the Toyota Tercel motor? No! It doesn’t make sense.
So juice up your network with top-of-the-line routers from Linksys or Netgear or Asus, fitted with DD-WRT – the increasingly popular, highly-customizable firmware of choice for insiders in the know. Get ahead of the next wave of tech products by mastering your network.
Quickly, you’ll wonder how you lived without the knowledge of QoS Bandwidth management, a guest wireless network, the ability to create Wi-Fi hotspots, and the wonder of port forwarding. Prioritize Netflix HD video streaming, YouTube videos, or uploading and downloading of torrents or newsbinz with a few clicks of a button.
Ready to expand your wireless networking horizon? Head over to FlashRouters and check it out for yourself. Get yourself one last gift this holiday season, you and your iPad deserve it.