wi-fi

How to Boost Your Wireless Signal

How to Boost Your Wireless Signal 150 150 Kerry Butters

Wi-Fi strength is important to ensure that your business is always connected to the internet. Cumbersome Ethernet wires snaking around your office merely get in the way and with wireless speeds becoming much quicker the advantages to a wired connection are dwindling.

It can however be infuriating to have a Wi-Fi network set up but be unable to connect at the speeds that you expect and require. If your wireless network is struggling to meet the demands of your network then there are some options to boost your wireless connectivity, without changing routers and providers.

Wireless networking technology is pushing more and more users away from wired options due to its convenience. Users however are also aware that a Wi-Fi connection can be frustrating and fickle. If you’re unfortunate enough to be a victim of a poorly functioning network, there’s no need to suffer in silence. Here are a number of tips to boost your wireless range, connectivity, and browsing speed.

Upgrade your network

Wireless-G (802.11g) is currently the most common Wi-Fi network but it’s not the fastest or even the most up to date. Wireless-N is the next step and for users that are able and willing, upgrading to this option is recommended.

Wireless-N is twice as fast as its wireless-G counterpart and it offers better signal range and better connectivity. It’s a more costly alternative but if it’s speed that you’re after it’s a worthwhile investment. Older laptops are likely running a wireless-G card and so an upgraded card is needed to take advantage of wireless-N speeds. If you don’t want to upgrade your laptop, simply purchase a wireless dongle.

Move the Router

This one’s simple and it seems almost redundant to mention; however, in many cases the reason that the Wi-Fi signal is so weak is because something is interfering with the router. So if you’re not able to invest in higher end technology, try moving the router elsewhere to improve its overall performance. Objects such as walls and metal objects can negatively affect a routers performance substantially. Make sure that your router is in an unobstructed environment; place it as high as possible, and you might manage to get optimal performance.

New Antenna

Perhaps all that’s needed for your router to perform better is a simple upgrade of the antenna. This will increase the power and range of your router and grant you better connectivity. A router comes with an antenna that is omnidirectional, which means that the Wi-Fi signal is beamed in every direction. You can opt to upgrade your antenna for a more specific and focused signal that works in one direction. This isn’t a hack that increases your routers overall signal strength, but it does mean that you’re making the best use of it.

This is perhaps not the best option for those working in a large office, but for those that need the best possible signal and are happy with it being more directed, then this is a valid alternative.

Reboot your Router

Often when a router is underperforming a simple reboot can galvanise it back to its full potential. Sometimes the phone line can get over saturated, so it’s advisable to not only press the reset button but to also unplug all the connected wires. You can schedule your router to regularly reboot itself and it effectively means that your router will be reset to work to its best specifications. Users can use an outlet timer to schedule the reboot for when the Wi-Fi network isn’t in use.

The router can also be rebooted from inside the router software itself, which is usually accessed via an IP address such as 198.162.0.1 – these do vary and you will need the admin username and password, which should have been changed when the router was first purchased.

Repeater Benefits

There is the option for increasing wireless signal distance and strength that involves the use of a repeater. A repeater is a device that captures the wireless signal and then rebroadcasts it. This technology can be used to beam Wi-Fi connectivity to areas that are normally Wi-Fi dead-spots. The device can be placed anywhere and plugged into an outlet to catch any Wi-Fi signal and extend it further.

Firmware Update

Routers are a piece of technology like any other and over time the software onboard ages. It’s important to keep any device up-to-date to reap the best and most current benefits and applications. Firmware is designed to be upgraded and a router is no exception. As improvements become available it’s important to keep up with the new software. Doing so can improve a routers performance and also its security, meaning that your network can be up-to-date, safe, and connected with the latest software. The updates for a router are normally free and users can get them by visiting the device manufacturer’s website.

There are a number of options when it comes to upgrading your wireless signal, but the most important consideration is to firstly troubleshoot. Once you know why your network is underperforming it becomes much easier to search for and find solutions.

Internet connectivity is increasingly important and when it’s coupled with the freedom to move around, it becomes clear that your Wi-Fi signal needs to be consistent and have a wide range.

Follow the above steps when you run into problems and keep your employees connected. If all else fails, adopt a new service and a new router, but until those steps are necessary try some of the above. Hopefully it’ll help you to provide a better service and negate some of the headaches of a wireless network that won’t do what it should.

5 Tips for More Secure Wi-Fi

5 Tips for More Secure Wi-Fi 150 150 Simon Randall

You already know you need to secure your business Wi-Fi network. But did you know that Wi-Fi access points are still a weak link that could compromise your efforts and put precious data at risk?

Wi-Fi signals don’t respect boundaries and often spill out into the street. That can be an open door for hackers and unless you take steps to nail down your Wi-Fi, you may as well leave the office unlocked at night. If you don’t secure your network then, at best, you’ll get the local Wi-Fi moochers stealing your bandwidth. At worst you’ll have a serious security breach on your hands.

Here are five tips to beef up your Wi-Fi security and keep hackers out.

Use WPA2

If you are using WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), then you need to get with the times as it’s been understood for some time that WEP has some fundamental flaws and any decent hacker with Aircrack-ng on their laptop could be rifling through your virtual drawers in minutes.

This is your business network, so don’t take chances. Go for the strongest security you can and install WPA2 protection. At the very least you should go for WPA, but the newer system should keep you one step ahead in the constant race against cybercriminals. This is especially the case these days as hackers don’t need to be skilled in order to access business systems. All they really need to do is buy an exploit kit on the black market, which can be obtained for very little money now.

If you are stuck with WPA then check your router. Some of them offer Wireless Protect Setup (WPS), which makes it easier to connect. It also makes it easier to hack, so disable it.

Bigger companies on WPA should opt for enterprise mode, which allows a separate login for each employee and a degree of accountability. Security threats don’t always come from outside, after all, and this set-up makes it easier to terminate access when the company terminates an employee. To run this system, though, you’ll need to run it on a server.

Go Rogue

You can go to the ends of the Earth to secure your Wi-Fi network. Your work can be blown out the water by pro hackers, though, or even your own colleagues.

It all sounds a little like covert military operations, but you have to sweep the office regularly. Thankfully you don’t really need a high-tech scanner, just a laptop loaded with aerodump-ng or Vistumbler that will sniff out suspect packages and locate rogue Wi-Fi points.

This is important, because a rogue access point can strip out all your security, broadcast your SSID and open the network to everyone. Forget about hackers, if this happens literally anyone could connect to your network and they won’t even need a password.

Use a secure password

It sounds obvious, but then you’d be surprised how many companies get hacked because they used a password everyone could remember. It’s a sad fact that despite the need for good security when used on a business network, many people still opt for silly, easily crackable passwords such as 123456 or (trying to be clever and failing) ‘password’.

Ditch the company slogan and go for a long and random selection of letters, numbers and capitals. You need at least 13 characters to defeat most brute force attacks, but even that won’t stop some and you should use all the characters you can. Don’t let them write it down on a Post-It on the screen either. People can steal access the old-fashioned way if you’re lazy. Find and use a decent password manager.  

Go for the longest and most random selection of lower case letters, capitals and numbers that you can. Then test it using something like Cloudcracker. If the system cracks the code then you need to go further.

Hide Your Network

If you don’t stop it, your Wi-Fi network will broadcast its SSID details far and wide. It’s trying to be helpful and for most users, this saves them the hassle of entering the network name in order to connect.

It’s a minute’s work to set the SSID to ‘hidden’ and to stop the network advertising its presence. Change the SSID identity and every default name on the system, too, because if you leave the name intact then you have saved the hacker’s time.

Office computers will have to be set-up, of course, and employees will scream for help with their own mobile devices. They should know the name of the network, though, so can enter the details themselves. Saying that, it’s better practice if you allow BYOD to use a mobile device management (MDM) system.

Convenience is never an excuse for lax security measures, so you will have to put up with repeated requests for login information.  Hackers equipped with proper software will still be able to sniff out the network, so this is just one measure you should take and do not rely on it. A layered approach to network security is required at all times and this requires hardware firewalls at router level, as well as appropriate antivirus solutions and file monitoring software, for full protection.

Turn your router off at night, too, if your business doesn’t need 24-hour access. No hacker in the world can find your network if it isn’t there.

Don’t Invite Network Guests

Some offices have a virtual revolving door of visitors coming in all day long. Nowadays many of them want to hook up to your Wi-Fi to take care of emails and even catch up on the latest viral videos. The problem is that the visitors don’t always take as much care of their security as you do. So allowing them free reign means you’re open to systems loaded up with viruses and malware. Of course it can happen in reverse, too.

It’s a little aggressive to say no, so you’re stuck with gaping holes in your Wi-Fi’s security right? Wrong. You can offer a guest network that keeps visitors away from your sensitive internal network.

Most business level routers can run two networks at once. Even though this is a relatively open network you should still run basic security measures. Put a password on the system, to prevent the whole world draining your Wi-Fi bandwidth and also to protect your guests from prying eyes while they are on the system.

In the modern world, as technology races ahead and becomes further integrated into our everyday lives, security and privacy are desirable – for businesses though, they are vital if they are to retain important data and protect customers, as well as avoid fines if they should lose such data.

Wired vs. Wireless for SME’s

Wired vs. Wireless for SME’s 150 150 Simon Randall

Wi-Fi is nothing new but it has rocketed in popularity over the course of the last decade. For the individual private consumer, it is both the height of fashion and the height of convenience too. In addition, with more and more people now taking their personal devices into the workplace, under the auspices of BYOD, the decision to use a structured cabling solution, or a wireless one can be tricky.

The Dividing Line between Large Enterprises and SMEs

The only thing that is quite clear in the wireless v wired debate in the business world, is the easily seen dividing line being drawn between large enterprises, and SMEs, whereby the decision of bigger businesses is often more straight forward to make. The larger enterprises are for now sticking with wired LANs in the main, using wireless only as an addition for the convenience of top brass, and facilitate visitor access. But for how long?

For SMEs, the debate between wired versus wireless continues to run on in view of the various pros and cons which exist for both technologies.

Structured Cabling Easy Choice for Large Organisations?

One thing that makes it much easier for large enterprises to make a decision is the fact that their pockets are so much larger than those of the SME. It means that things like the possibility of having to invest more money to cope with expanding a wired network, or having to pay out for expensive repairs are not so much of a concern.

In addition to having bigger pockets, large enterprises also have bigger concerns about handling the amount of data that is generated by a large organisation, and the bigger distances (distances between departments and floors) across which the data has to be transmitted. Wired networks are essentially faster and more stable, and the signal travels for much greater distances, not inhibited by walls and floors.

IT Cabling for SMEs

The limitations that being an SME imposes on any business, is heightened by the question of affordability. So let’s just part of that to one side for the moment and take a quick look at the other pros and cons, taking a small enterprise as being one that employs between 1 to 10 employees, and a medium enterprise as being one that employs between 10 to 50 employees.

Controlling a smaller workforce is easier

Generally speaking, the smaller an enterprise is, the easier that enterprise is to control from a personnel point of view. The business structure is often more informal, but communication between a small number of employees is that much simpler. This is a positive aspect when it comes down to running a wireless network and managing BYOD.

The Challenges of Managing BYOD

For medium-size enterprises, and indeed for large enterprises, managing BYOD is much more of a headache. Personally owned devices are more likely to contain hidden malware, and this malware can infect any network once connected. There is also the problem that many employees connect their personal devices to the network without gaining authority to do so from the IT department. It’s one of the major concerns that medium and large enterprises have to consider, and it requires strong corporate policies to be formulated and adopted. Educating personnel is key, but the problem is not insoluble.

Of course, there are also mobile management solutions on hand to help manage BYOD schemes, but for the SME, this is also another cost to consider.

For small enterprises a wired network can often turn out to be a more expensive option than an unwired one. The cost of the cable itself may be relatively cheap, but the installation can be expensive in terms of labour costs. Another disadvantage with wired networks for the SME is that if small businesses choose to simply lay cables across floors and desks, this poses a hazard in terms of health and safety. Using a wireless connection instead can therefore be both cheaper and safer, in theory at least.

However, a wireless network is more open to hacking than a cabled network as the routers are often all too easy to access, especially if the installer doesn’t change default admin passwords or makes them too simple to crack.

The Impact of Cloud Computing

The advent of cloud computing is making a huge impact across all sizes of enterprises. For the small and medium sized businesses the cloud presents an opportunity to take advantage of applications that were previously only affordable to their bigger brothers. Not only that but the security that cloud computing now offers, is often far superior to that which SMEs themselves employ.

Security and the Cloud

Security is one of the biggest concerns of the larger enterprise. But even that is now being circumvented by the use of hybrid cloud computing, whereby businesses can hide confidential and sensitive data away from prying eyes behind their own firewall, and yet still enjoyed the cost savings and convenience that public cloud computing offers.

The Scalability of Cloud and Wireless Networking

Finally, the ability that wireless networking brings in terms of scalability are an advantage to every size of company. But for smaller companies, who operate on smaller budgets, the ability to be able to turn cloud services on and off, and to be able to scale both up and down almost at a moment’s notice, is significant.

Jumping on the Bandwagon

More and more businesses of all sizes are beginning to jump on the wireless networking bandwagon, but for the SME, with their smaller pocket sizes, it represents an excellent ROI, as indeed does cloud computing.

Wireless Cabling ROI

The larger companies will almost certainly stay with wired networking in the immediate future, supplemented with wireless networking running alongside. Add to this fibre cabling which offers better speeds and there’s future proofing available when it comes to what could be called a hybrid network, using wired and wireless.

But for SMEs, more will be turning to wireless networking and cloud computing as old servers begin to become redundant, especially bearing in mind the larger the size of the investment required to purchase new hardware, an investment that has a lower return than taking the virtual, wireless route.

Image: Photosteve101






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