Hopefully Helpful Hints about Home networks

The below resource guide was submitted by a MetaGeek customer. Thanks for the tips, Bob!

Hopefully Helpful Hints about Home networks

In watching the Teams chats, it seems the connection from home, either for VPN or just Office.com can play a major part of your success. As the guys at Meta-Geeks, I product I use, have said, we are a bit spoiled by our fast corporate network, but do not have the same speed at home.

  1. Our offices are usually wired Gig over a structured network backbone with direct connection to the servers or a fast pipe to the Internet.
  2. At home, we have DSL 1.5 M, 100-300 M Cable (which is Asymmetrical – meaning full speed down, but 10 or even 5% up. For example, Spectrum 200 might have 200 M down, but 20 M up.) Best is the new 1 G Fiber to your house.
  3. Even if you have a fast connection, VPN will cut your speed, sometimes by 50%, as it wraps your data packet in a nice little “Fed-Ex” type box, sends it to the firewall, that has to then un-wrap your data packet, and send it down the network.
  4. Adding to your speed reductions is the use of WiFi.

Years ago, a neighbor and I had the most powerful routers on the block. As more houses got new cable or ATT connections, their routers got better. I broke the piggy bank and got a new one and I am King of the Block again. Actually, our new Windows 10 workstation did not like that my old Router that was not up to the latest security standards.

The new cable routers from Spectrum are fast, and even have WiFi. However, did you know that your neighbor walking down the street, talking on his Spectrum Mobile / Verizon Cell phone will automatically tie into your WiFi like a mini-cell tower?

The biggest reason WiFi is half the speed of wired is collision detection vs. collision avoidance. Wired will detect another data packet, back off for a few milliseconds, and send again. This is Collision Detection. Wifi uses Collision Avoidance. Your workstation, cell phone, laptop, smart TV, yells out “Hey everyone, I have a data packet I need to send. Can yawl quiet it down for a millisecond?”

Those that know me will not be surprised to hear that over the weekend, I pulled two wires, (outdoor rated, through holes drilled in the walls) from our router to where my workstation is. (Never pull just one wire). The wires and jacks are numbered, and besides using the wired path, I have less traffic to slow down the circus of other wireless devices in my house.

Location, Location, Location

Is your Wifi centralized in your house, or in the back bedroom / office? Each wall will get in the way, especially to the higher 5 Ghz that everyone wants to use for faster speed.
There are now WiFi extenders, Repeaters, and Mesh. You can use a wired connection, a third channel, or a lot of them will just grab one of your channels, but give you a connection on the other side of the house. Unless you use one of two 5 GHz channels as the “Back Haul”, you will end up with 2.4 GHz speed. Some mesh and extenders will allow for the use of the same SSID’s and act like cell towers. Many Repeaters will need a second SSID and Password set up. Bob-Wifi and Bob-Wifi-X. Is your WiFi on top of a table, or tall cabinet, or tucked away in the shelf against the wall? For a fast connection, you almost need a clear “line of sight”.

Frequency and Channels

2.4 GHz is everywhere. Channels 1, 6, and 11 have the least overlap. Newer N and AC standards will take over more, if not all channels in the 2.4 GHz range. Some routers will try to sneak in a channel on 4 or 9, but that just causes twice the overlap. 5 Ghz is becoming full also. The cable boxes love to use the 140’s ranges. Newer Routers also allow the use of the 30-50 range. Again, the newer N and AC standards will eat up channels. Lower may be slower, but they also go farther through all of those walls. 2.4 GHz channel 1 will get to the back of the house better than 5 GHz.

Take a look, you have the tools.

As I mentioned, I have some programs from Meta-Geek such as INSSIDER. However, the WiFi Analyzer App on your Cell phone can show you a lot about your network, and how you are fighting with your neighbors. SpeedTest is a cell phone App that can test your speed.

There are lots of speed test programs that run on your laptop, but www.fast.com is quick, and looks clean.

If you want to work like at the office, work like you are at the office.

At home, we can work, but also listen to Pandora, watch YouTube, or other data traffic eating programs. If your laptop is locking out the Internet while on a VPN connection, are you using your cell phone WiFi at the same time? Remember, WiFi is all about Collision Avoidance.

Are you just on “Automatic” or are you using features a personal router can give you?

As I mentioned, most of my neighbors signed up for Spectrum, and bang, they had WiFi as soon as the installer drove away. The Router will constantly look around and change the channels, especially in the 2.4 GHz range, as it detects other routers. Most of the time, the 5 GHz range channels are set as they usually do not get past your house walls anyway.

A GOOD personal router can give you more control and options. As Tool-Time Tim would say, “More Power!” You can blast your WiFi through the house and maybe down the block if you are willing to pay the price, and maybe upgrade antennas. You can set up Parent and time of day controls. You can block sites. You can VPN back into your workstation at home. I love the way that Sean Thomsen set up QOS so his workstation had priority over his wife’s Video Streaming. Sean, does Pat know about that???

I have worked from home since the days of modems. Windows 10 is very Chatty, calling home to Microsoft.com, and refreshing the “live tiles” that we never use. We have Alexa, Ring, Game playing and video streaming devices. My next refrigerator will let me know when we are out of milk. Is it any wonder that VPN or Remote Terminal will sometimes drop?

If you are going to work from home, make it more office-like, especially if you rely on WiFi.

– Bob Ellison