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6 tips on how to optimize the speed of your home network

Derek Meister, Geek Squad Agent, Best Buy, special to Network World | Dec. 21, 2015
The average number of connected devices in the home is expected to grow to eight this year, which can strain home networks.

Use security best practices for network settings. Many modern wireless routers will come pre-setup with a random network name (“SSID”) and password (“Encryption Key”). If you choose to change these, remember that the network name is visible to others so consider a network name that doesn’t provide any information about you (like “The Jones Family Network”).

When it comes to choosing a password, the more complex, the less likely it is to be guessed. A longer password with a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation marks will help. Definitely avoid easy to guess passwords like your telephone number.

Be mindful that you may need to balance complexity with ease of getting that password entered into a device without a keyboard like a videogame console or a wireless thermostat. In most cases, you’ll only need to enter the password once, as the device will remember and auto-connect with that information.

While you’re configuring your network security, check that your router’s network encryption is set to WPA2 or as it’s sometimes listed, “WPA2-PSK” or “WPA2 Personal.” Some routers may default to “WPA and WPA2”, but if all of your devices support the WPA2 standard (and most do), it’s best to only allow WPA2 encryption.

Most routers generally come with a “network firewall” configured by default. This controls what types of data are allowed into and out of your network. In most cases, you’ll want to leave these settings alone. Some network devices like videogame consoles used for multiplayer games or webcams that need to be viewed from outside your network may require changes to these firewall settings for functionality.

Keep the wireless router up to date. Most current routers will be set to check for updated firmware automatically.  Firmware updates may improve how well your devices connect to the network, as well as overall performance. These updates can also correct security flaws as they’re discovered. You’ll want to log into your router’s administration page occasionally to ensure the firmware is up to date.

Keep all devices up to date. Computer operating systems like Windows or Mac OS X will check for software updates automatically, but if you do run into issues with your network, make sure to check for updated network drivers from the computer’s maker as well. This is especially important after an operating system update including Windows 10.

Tablets and other connected devices may have updated firmware that improve network performance and security, so it’s important that you’re checking for the latest updates there as well.

If the devices support it, connect to a 5GHz network.  Most new routers are “dual-band” in that they support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio bands. The older 2.4GHz band is like a crowded highway. You not only have your neighbor’s router running on it (important in an apartment building), but also older cordless phones, wireless mice and keyboards, Bluetooth, etc. In some cases, even Microwaves and faulty lamps can put out 2.4GHz “radio noise.”


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