Want to make sure you’re getting the best from your business broadband? Then make sure you’re getting the most from your wireless router. While you can find several hardware and software hacks to boost your wireless router signal, firstly try a few easy tricks and simple adjustments that can help to fully optimise your connection quality.

Location, location, location

Occasionally the materials that have been used to build your home or office can affect the signal strength of your wireless router by obstructing the radio path meaning that the wireless signal may not stretch to cover every room from a far corner in your house or office. More often than not you will get the best performance from your wireless router if you place it as close as possible to centre of the area you would like to cover. Metal can block radio waves, so avoid placing your wireless router next to large metal objects, such as TVs, sound systems or metal furniture like filing cabinets.

The right way up!

While the typical Wi-Fi antenna is omni-directional, your router will offer better coverage when it’s placed horizontally in single-floor buildings. However, you need to position the actual antenna vertically, and at right angles to the wireless router. This is particularly relevant to laptop users with horizontal PC Card Wi-Fi adaptors. It’s much better to have a USB adaptor with a hinged antenna, or to have the antenna built into the lid. In multi-storey buildings, placing the antenna diagonally or parallel to the floor will be most effective.

Minimising interference

When you use Wi-Fi your wireless router and your PC or laptop communicate to each other using radio waves. Cordless phones, for example, may be using the same radio wave channel which can cause interference. If you experience these problems, try changing the channel used by the wireless router; this can be done quickly and easily in the configuration settings. Similarly halogen lamps, baby monitors and microwave ovens can cause interference so ensure your router is placed as far away as possible from these types of objects.

Security is key

Many wireless hotspots are set up to use WEP (Wired Equivalent Security) encryption to protect their connections. However WPA (WiFi Protected Access) is less easy to hack than WEP. To increase security, access the configuration settings on your wireless router to change your security level. Set the WPA password to something complex and difficult to break – for example a mix of lower and upper case letters and at least two numbers. WPA encryption only incurs a small bandwidth penalty.

Need lower downtime interruptions?

If you use dynamic IP addressing, each time the server refreshes your IP address you can experience downtime from the server and interrupt your connection. Although this is usually for a short time, this can cause issues for game playing and VoIP (Voice over IP) calls where continuous connection is essential. This doesn’t happen if you have a static IP address that is not refreshed. For more about the difference between static and dynamic IP addresses see our other blogpost.

Network bottlenecks

Even after you have carried out all the changes you can on your own internal network, there can still be broadband network bottlenecks that are outside of your control. The services you access on the web also need sufficient capacity in order to deliver you the content you are requesting whether it’s a small web page or a large media file, especially if it is a busy time of the day. Unfortunately optimising your wireless router or even buying a bigger broadband bandwidth connection makes no difference in the case of slow services.

Watch out for high latency and ping times

Bandwidth availability has become larger and faster with some business broadband providers offering speeds of up to 40 Mbps; however this does not necessarily mean you will receive a better experience. If the amount of time it takes you to download content is taking longer than it should, this means that the network latency is high and ping times are 100s of milliseconds rather than i10s of milliseconds, this can often result in a poor user experience even with a 40Mb connection. When choosing your business broadband service look for a low latency network that provides a better browsing experience.