When building a business network, Wi-Fi can be trickier to deal with than some expect. A properly-configured and optimized Wi-Fi network can be effectively "invisible" to most users - it's simply there when they need it.
However, there are still a variety of factors which can slow down your WiFi, or even impede access entirely. These can come from both physical issues, as well as optimization problems within their software. Either way, a poorly-optimized WiFi network can quickly become an impediment to productivity, rather than enhancing it.
So today, let's look at some common problems that can come up with Wi-Fi networks, and how to get the best performance out of your investment in access points (APs).
1 - You are only as fast as your slowest link.
Unfortunately, the most common reason we see for subpar Wi-Fi performance is bottlenecks elsewhere in the system. When purchasing access points, remember that their maximum speed is reliant on the speed at which other network devices run.
So, if you pick up a gigabit-capable set of Wi-Fi access points, or even faster than gigabit- currently 802.11ac wave 2 can do up to 1.7Gbps - but your switch can only handle 10/100 Ethernet, your APs will still be unable to run any faster than the switch that's providing their connections.
Very often, new ethernet switches are needed to get the most out of new APs.
2 - The speed of light is an issue. Really!
Light and electricity seem to move instantly, but every extra foot of cabling ultimately slows down your network, as well as adding signal interference. In fact, Ethernet cable has an effective maximum length, although that length depends on the data being put through it. Either way, Cat-5 or Cat-6 cables beyond 100m long will start causing network slowdown.
So, if your network is spread over a wide area with a lot of cabling, you may be slowing yourself down by making it harder for the data to transmit at all. Moving your APs and servers closer together physically can, in fact, speed up your network.
A move to fiber optics, which eliminates the interference of copper wire, can also help speed things up.
3 - Physical layout can affect Wi-Fi signal strength
The physical properties of your building can also have a significant affect on your Wi-Fi speed and reliability. There's practically an entire materials science based around dealing with the physical properties of radio signals passing through buildings.
Everything from your wall materials, to your insulation, to the location of water pipes and refrigerators can ultimately impede your Wi-Fi signals.
However, this is also extremely difficult for laymen to optimize for themselves. If you suspect physical properties of your building are affecting your access points, we recommend contacting an experienced network vendor to survey your location and make suggestions.
4 - Access points allow robust configuration.
In our view, the best Wi-Fi access points in the industry are Meraki 802.11ac Wave 2 or ADTRAN's BlueSocket standard. BlueSocket And Meraki allow basic APs to pull their configuration directly from the network, speeding installation. You also gain far more control over individual use, which allows you to -for example- throttle one user's access if it seems they're hogging the line.
With over a decade of experience helping business implement powerful WiFi solutions, Hummingbird Networks knows how to improve your networks whether you're here in SoCal, or anywhere else in the world. No matter what your business needs to succeed, all it takes is one quick message to make it happen!