A wireless network is something most people take for granted. When it is working, no one notices. The moment it starts to act up, usually slower speeds, you notice and get upset. Thankfully, there are a few things you keep in mind when setting up, or updating, your wireless network to help provide the best experience possible.
There have been times where friends and family members have asked:
Which WiFi band should I use? 5Ghz or 2.4GHz? What difference does it make? How many devices can I connect to my WiFi?Friends
The easiest way to explain this is that most modern day wireless routers feature dual band wireless networks. One band operates at 2.4GHz and the other at 5GHz. During setup, the router will ask you to create a network name (SSID) and password for each band. Some WiFi routers will allow you set one name and password for both bands, but we do not recommend it. Having two names allows you to manage which devices connect to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
The 2.4GHz WiFi band has been a standard for a while, it offers up decent speeds but allows for a lot of coverage and range. The 5GHz WiFi band and allows for really fast WiFi speeds, but the coverage and range is weaker. Simply put 2.4GHz is for range and 5GHz is for speed. Since 2.4GHz WiFi band is so widely used, it's a heavily congested band. This will cause issues with all devices on your network, because that band is used by other wireless routers too, so they all compete in that space. 5GHz is way less congested making it ideal for speed and more stable connections.
As we stated before, when setting up your WiFi network, name 2.4Ghz and 5GHz different names. For example, wireless-2.4 and wireless-5. Now to answer the question, which one should you use? The answer is both. Having the different names, this allows you to customize which WiFi band your devices use. Giving you more control over your WiFi network and how it is used.
Now lets take a look at some examples of devices you might connect to your WiFi network and which WiFi band you should use. This list is not comprehensive. It will give you a better idea on determining which WiFi band works for your devices. The one rule we are using is the bandwidth needs of the device in question. Some devices will not support 5GHz, at which point, you have no option.
Laptops, streaming devices, security cameras, and tablets are heavy bandwidth users. But, because of range issues, those devices may need to connect the 2.4GHz WiFi band to be usable. Check out how streams or video feeds or downloads perform with these devices on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. This will help determine if range is an issue. Use the WiFi band that provides a more stable connection.
When speed is a concern, then you should use the 5GHz WiFi band. Not many devices will benefit from the speed 5GHz offers.
A more technical explanation is that the more devices you connect to the 5GHz WiFi band, means the more devices that are attempting to hog more of your internet bandwidth. Say you have 10 devices connected to your 5GHz WiFi band. Now, say they are all actively transmitting and requesting data. In the end, your connections will most likely result in slower speeds for all your devices across all WiFi bands.
Whenever a device connects to your Wi-Fi network, it has to fight with other devices for bandwidth (internet speed). A TV streaming Netflix, a laptop downloading, an Xbox Live gaming session — they all want the fastest connection. But there’s only so much bandwidth to go around. Your bandwidth is stretched thin, resulting in a slower connection.Google
However, since the router’s wireless channel is shared between all the wireless clients, adding clients will inevitably result in slower network access for all clients. This will be particularly noticeable if some of the clients are using a lot of wireless bandwidth, for example by watching a video or doing a torrent download. Therefore, the maximum number of wireless clients that will operate satisfactorily while connected to the same router will vary depending on what the devices are used for. It will also vary depending on how much wireless congestion or interference are present in the location where the router is installed.Netgear
Not all WiFi routers are created equal. Most WiFi AC routers will have more bandwidth capabilities than WiFi N routers. You will still end up seeing slow down issues on AC devices, but the effects will be much less than that of WiFi N routers. If speed is a concern, then manage which devices use your 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands. If you still see some issues, look into updating your WiFi router to an AC1200 or better device.
Nearly everything on the Internet starts with a DNS request. DNS is the Internet’s directory. Click on a link, open an app, send an email and the first thing your device does is ask the directory: Where can I find this?
Unfortunately, by default, DNS is usually slow and insecure. Your ISP, and anyone else listening in on the Internet, can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if their content is encrypted. Creepily, some DNS providers sell data about your Internet activity or use it target you with ads.
On April Fool's Day of 2018 Cloudflare announced their brand-new DNS service. The statement above explains the importance of having a good DNS service. Not all DNS providers are created equal. Cloudflare's DNS service is almost 20ms faster than Google's DNS service. We here at QCTechJunkie have updated all of our devices to use Cloudflare over Google. And there is no real reason why you should not at least try Cloudflare's DNS yourself.
One reason to use Cloudflare's DNS, over the one your ISP probably has you using, is for data privacy. According to Cloudflare:
We will never log your IP address (the way other companies identify you). And we’re not just saying that. We’ve retained KPMG to audit our systems annually to ensure that we’re doing what we say.
Frankly, we don’t want to know what you do on the Internet—it’s none of our business—and we’ve taken the technical steps to ensure we can’t.
Setup is easy, as long as you know where to look. In fact Cloudflare will recognize the device you are on when you go to https://126.96.36.199/. From there they will provide you with basic instructions to setup up your device to use their service. But, why do that when we will cover the major four platforms for you right here:
If you want to make things easier for all your devices on your home network, you can configure your router to use Cloudflare's DNS. Doing this will eliminate the need to configure each device on your home network. Below is the general setup for most routers:
Note: Configurations for your router maybe different, consult your routers owners manual for more information.
Having a poor Wi-Fi signal can be a real bummer. Thankfully, most people have plenty of options that can fix Wi-Fi issues. One of the best options is mesh routers. Before you make that upgrade, take a moment to see where your current Wi-Fi is failing you. From there you can develop a better solution.
First things first, run some speed tests to see your download and upload speeds. Once you have those numbers, compare them to the plan you have with your Internet Service Provider. Ookla's Speedtest (Android, iOS) or Netflix's Fast.com (Android, iOS) can help you here. Both will provide you with results on your download and upload speeds. Both are also very simple to use. If your speeds are dramatically different than what your service states you have, give your service provider a call.
Load a speed test app to your phone and start checking speeds around your home. This is the most basic troubleshooting you can do. Run a speed check at least three times to get a more accurate average of speed for that area. This will help you find the trouble spots, including ones you may not know about.
Now that you know where the trouble spots are, you can use an analyzer app to see what is happening. We recommend Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android. With most analyzer apps you will be able to Wi-Fi strength and channel usages. Wireless channels being used by multiple devices can cause issues with speed.
Another area to check is signal strength. This is the other culprit of wireless speeds, next to channel congestion. Signal strength is measured in dBm or decibel-milliwatts. The key is that lower negatives numbers are better than larger negative numbers. For a perfect connection, you will want -30 dBm. As long as the signal is around -60 dBm you should be fine. Anything greater than -80 dBm is bad.
While analyzing channel congestion, you might find some channels that have less activity than others. Keep in mind that 2.4GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi options have a different set of channels. Log into your router and make some adjustments. Most routers are set to automatically pick a channel, but they tend to all use the same channel. Because of this, neighborhood routers can start over lapping and cause congestion for that channel. 5GHz offers more channels than 2.4GHz, which helps with congestion. But, 5GHz does not have the same range as 2.4GHz.
In addition to switching channels on your router, you can reposition your router to help with signal strength. Ideally, you will want your router out in the open, not in a closet, and centrally located in your home. After a reposition, be sure to go around with your Wi-Fi analyzer and check to see how things improve.
Switching channels not enough? Or Cannot move your router to a better spot? Then it may be time to look into some additional hardware. Wi-Fi boosters or repeaters are still an option and are relatively cheap. Place these with in good range of your main router, and they will create an additional network for your devices to join. Your mileage with a booster or an extender will vary. These devices are not ideal for streaming services.
Another option are powerline adapters. These devices will take your network and send the signal through your house electrical system. This system tends to be more costly, but is a much better option. The reason for this is the extenders in this setup will have a hard line connection to your router.
One final option is a mesh networking system. This system uses multiple Wi-Fi routers setup across your home to juggle multiple devices on your network. These devices all act as one router, but because you have more than one the coverage in your home is better. Boosters and Extenders all acts as separate networks, with separate network names. Mesh networks eliminate that problem.
Earlier this year the Wi-Fi Alliance announced their latest certification for Wi-Fi systems: Wi-Fi Certified EasyMesh. This certification helps create a shared standard for extending Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home with the use multiple routers.
As manufacturers of routers adopt this standard, you will be able to setup a EasyMesh network in your home easily. The network converge will be seamless to you and your devices. Currently, most routers feature a mesh network capabilities, but they only really work with other routers by that same manufacture. This creates a lock-in to that manufacture.
Most people will notice that certain locations in their home will have spotty Wi-Fi from their home router. A mesh network will link multiple routers, that you place around your home, to help distribute your Wi-Fi connection. You do not need to run additional network cables with this setup. This is similar to a Wi-Fi extenders. The added benefit is that, unlike extenders, you do not have to deal with multiple Wi-Fi network names. The mesh will automatically connect your devices to the best signal, without you knowing.
EasyMesh will resolve the issue of locking your devices to one manufacture for your mesh system. The Wi-Fi Alliance has been working hard at creating standards for all of your network gear and help make sure they work how you expect them to. Instead of purchasing a certain brand, you can purchase any brand that is EasyMesh compatible and it will work. Do keep in mind, the routers all need to be EasyMesh certified. If one is not certified, then there is a good chance it will not work.
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, EasyMesh will always monitor your network, load balancing data speed. It will even automatically link additional mesh routers to the network when you set them up. This is similar to how mesh networks work currently, but only for devices from the same company. EasyMesh will do this for all devices.
Additionally, EasyMesh devices will be future proof. Meaning that today's devices will be compatible with future devices. This is great for people who do not upgrade devices often. From what we found, routers need to support, at minimum, the 802.11n Wi-Fi protocol.
This is the area most people will be concerned about. Now, some manufactures have added Mesh network capabilities through firmware updates, but it's not clear if EasyMesh support can be added the same way. The other question is whether or not EasyMesh devices will cost more due to the functionality. Honestly, we would not be surprised if manufacturers use this as a reason to increase their prices.
Regardless, EasyMesh will make creating a home mesh network super simple solution for most people to setup. Based on the the product finder from the Wi-Fi Alliance page, no devices are certified yet. Certifications do not come easy, which helps ensure quality for the EasyMesh brand. We would expect to start seeing devices that are EasyMesh certified by the end of the year. We should also know more on whether current devices will eventually support EasyMesh too.
Connected devices in our home is common place, and the number of those connected devices in our home is growing. This means there are a growing number of opportunities for someone to access your home network and your devices on that network. Because of this we want to take a moment to go over some steps you can take to help make your home's smart devices safer and more secure.
Please keep in mind there is an ever growing array of smart home devices, we cannot go over specifics for each gadget. One general rule of thumb is to go through the device's documentation for initial security precautions. If your device does not have a guide, double check the manufacture's website.
Windows and macOS do a great job and downloading and installing updates. Most smart home gadgets do not. There are many reason why this could be or by default the devices does not need internet access, just access to devices on your home network.
This, ultimately, means it is on you to keep track of devices updates. This can be a pain when you have a lot of devices to deal with, but it is worth it in the end in order to safe guard your home network and the devices connected to it. Checking for updates for your smart devices can happen through the smartphone app for the device, if there is one, or by checking the manufacturer's website.
For a lot of smart home devices, updates will not release on a regular basis, unless a security exploit crops up. So, setup a schedule to sit down and run through checking for updates on all your devices. Doing this, at least, once a month is a good starting point.
If your smart home device does have an update, it could take a few steps to install. Some devices require you to connect it to your computer, which are usually for devices that do not have access to the internet. Other devices will allow you to update them via Bluetooth with an application on your phone.
An update routine extends to all of your electronics in your home, not just smart devices. Check for updates for you computers, phones, TVs, sound bars, and especially routers. Routers these days are doing better at alerting you an update is available, provided you log into their admin page. Most manufacture websites will tell you if there are updates and how you can update your devices.
Technology today is very much set it and forget. It is very nice to get up and running with new devices and then never have to worry about them. But, often some of the default settings can be too relaxed on security. We recommend that if your device has a settings menu, that you go through each option. If there are settings you are not familiar with, then check the manufactures websites for a better explanation on what the setting does.
Some key settings to look out for:
Once again, this routine should extend to all of your household devices. If the device or account to access your device offers two-step verification, enabled it. Also, if your device sends you notifications, like a security camera, to an email account, make sure you have a strong password for that email account. If a hacker gains access to your email, they could potentially see security snapshots and be able to determine when you are home or not.
Sticking with bigger name companies for your smart home gear does have it's benefits, even though they cost more. Samsung and LG can still be hacked just as the next company, but they at least have the resources to fix flaws in their devices if one is found. Newer or smaller companies, though having cheaper devices, may not ever fix found flaws or support could hard to work with when you run into issues. Devices that do not have a clear way of getting a hold of support is usually a sign that they probably will not fix security flaws in their devices.
In this day and age, we see many innovating smart devices, thanks to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Always do your research when buying into these products. Look into the company and see what security measures they have in place for the device you are thinking of purchasing.
Keep in mind many new companies have a habit of starting out with a bang but then disappearing just as fast as they exploded onto the market. The last thing you want is a smart lock or voice-activated device, that does not function anymore.
Because of the reasons stated above, it is best to get devices that all fall under the same umbrella. By limiting the number of smart home platforms you install in your home, you limit your exposure to attacks. Some smart home umbrellas include:
Once you have picked a system, we recommend you find products that work within that system. Some systems, like Samsung SmartThings and Google Home, will work with each other. But, that is not always the case.
Now, if you already have a miss mash of smart home devices, trying to get your setup under one or two umbrella's could prove difficult. Luckily, BullGuard’s Internet of Things Scanner is handy at helping to determine if any of your smart home devices are on the Shodan site. Shodan is a search site that scans the internet for any network device that is publicly accessible. Basically, if you find one of your devices is listed on that site, then someone could hack into it, so disconnect that device from the internet immediately. Then, check for updates and your security setting for that device.
The router in your home is the gate keeper to everything connected to the internet in your home. Smart devices, computers, mobile phones, game systems. Keeping it secure is the key to improving your home network security. The big three things you need to do are:
For example, you have a Roku plugged into your TV. The TV may have smart features as well, but they will not be as useful as the Roku is. Because of this, your TV does not need to be connected to the internet, at least not all of the TV. Remember today's TVs will get firmware updates that might fix issues, so it's good to have it connect to the internet every now and then to check for updates.
One special note about all devices that need internet access, be cautious about devices that prompt you to automatically configure your router for you. They do not need access to do that, so do not give that device the username and password to your router's settings menu. Additionally, most router's these days have a list of devices that are connected to your router, which you can control internet access too or block from your network.
Router's are getting better at keeping themselves up-to-date, but you still have to do some manual work. But, if you find that your router is not getting updates or the last update is already years old, it might be time upgrade. Today, many routers are built with smart home security in mind. Many will monitor your device's network traffic and will block common routes used by hackers and malware. Some will even go as far as blocking devices that appear to have poor security settings. Two routers we recommend, that have these features, are the Asus Blue Cave ($170) or the Luma Whole Home WiFi (3-Pack) ($135). If you rent a router from your Internet Service Provider, make sure to ask them for an upgraded router. But really, you're better off using your own router.
There are also devices you can purchase that are dedicated to just monitoring your smart home for vulnerabilities. These are nice options if you do not want to upgrade your router. Some of these devices are:
We will note that a lot of these devices have not ample third party testing. So, the claims made by the manufacture are just that, with no solid user proof to back them up. You are more then welcome to try them out, bu do so with caution. If you are using a device listed above, then leave some comments below on your experiences.
In the end, the best protection of your devices is to keep them up to date. Check for software/firmware updates, password protect them, if available, and make sure they are hard passwords.