With the increasing use of portable WiFi enabled devices like notebooks and mobile phones, it is more important than ever to optimize your WiFi setup to get the most benefit. Here are some simple ways to maximize performance and increase security of your WiFi setup.
There has been a huge improvement in speeds and performance offered by WiFi equipment since devices first started appearing in the mid 90’s. When shopping for devices it would be a good idea to note the specifications of your current equipment and make sure your Access Point (AP) choice support them. The most common types of hardware supports 802.11g (54Mbps) which is also backward compatible to 802.11b (11Mbps)
When choosing a location for your WiFi AP, make sure you keep it away from obstructions, especially metal objects such as fridges and filing cabinets or other potential signal obstacles. Generally your AP should be up as high as possible which enables a clearer line of sight to your WiFi clients.
These days with the common use of transmitting devices such as cordless telephones, video senders and wireless game controllers, there is the potential for interference which causes your WiFi setup to perform poorly in both range and speed. 802.11b and 802.11g both use the 2.4Ghz frequency so cordless phones or other devices using this same frequency have the potential to impact your WiFi setup a lot. You can usually set your AP to a different channel which may reduce disruption.
Your AP will generally come with a small antenna which performs adequately for small offices or homes. You can usually unscrew this antenna and replace it with a better one which will provide greater coverage. Alternative antennas are available to screw on directly to replace the supplied unit or with a short length of coax so you can position the antenna at a better, usually higher location. Generally these antennas will provide 360 degree coverage but directional units are also available which would suit installations that may be a far corner and concentrate coverage in one direction. For locations where coverage is needed outside a building, for example a school ground or outdoor cafe, an external outdoor antenna can be mounted in a suitable location and connected to the AP using a short a length of coax.
Some AP’s have a power setting allowing you to increase or decrease output power. This is useful if you would like to prevent your WiFi coverage spilling out outside your home or office too much or give your coverage a bit of a boost. This doesn’t increase your AP’s ability to recieve your WiFi clients, which is what a better antenna can do.
It is a good idea to lock down your WiFi network to prevent unauthorized access and people snooping inside your network. WEP was the original method of securing WiFi networks but has proven to be less secure than was hoped. Since then WPA was introduced and is present on almost all WiFi AP’s and other devices currently being sold. WPA is a more secure alternative to the original WEP method but may not be supported on all your devices.