Wi-Fi routers are a way of life for us as we continue to purchase new and exciting wireless devices to go as cordless as possible in our everyday life. Can you even remember a time before wireless internet connectivity in your homes? I can, but it's getting harder to imagine life without it.
We have routers available that specialize in its purpose, whether for guests in a storefront or restaurant, interconnected workspaces, digital ads in stores, home users, gaming and the list goes on. Having all these Wi-Fi connections at our fingertips, you have to wonder what features can benefit everyone as the technology has evolved in recent years.
What we'll be breaking down for you here is how you can get your Wi-Fi connection to work harder for you in this helpful guide. As you sit down and think of the features that matter most to you, allow us to give you some to consider.
What is a wireless router?
I've heard people I know use the terms router, switch and modem interchangeably. This means we should first examine what exactly a wireless router is and what it does.
A wireless router is used to provide access to the Internet or a private computer network. Depending on your manufacturer and mode, it can also function in a wired LAN (local area network), in a wireless-only LAN (WLAN), or in a mixed wired/wireless network.
Many wireless routers today have the options for a dual-band setup, meaning you can get them with the 2.4GHz spectrum which microwave ovens, cordless phones and Bluetooth devices use. There's also the 5GHz spectrums which are less crowded with a stronger signal, with less overall interference.
Router features you should use
Unfortunately not that many people actually configure their devices to the fullest, or may not fully understand them. As modern wireless routers are being designed, manufacturers making it much simpler of a process to navigate and set up the features of a wireless device.
1. Control traffic with network prioritization
Both of these have been around for a few generations but are great points to check out if you're not getting the desired speeds for your programs and hardware online. Basically it's the air traffic controller for your router that allows you to direct traffic as needed for maximum bandwidth to the games, software, and devices you use most.
- Quality of Service (QoS)
- Quality of service is an advanced feature that prioritizes internet traffic for applications, online gaming, Ethernet LAN ports, or specified MAC addresses to minimize the impact of busy bandwidth.
- Wireless Multimedia Extension (WMM) or Wireless Multimedia Extensions (WME)
- WMM is a Wi-Fi Alliance certification based on the IEEE 802.11e model. What it does is provides basic QoS features to IEEE 802.11 networks. WMM prioritizes traffic according to four Access Categories (AC) - voice, video, best effort, and background.
Now if you're using the QoS Engine, sometimes you can set the bandwidth available or match your ISP settings here. Another benefit of using this is that you can prioritize the devices actually connected to your Wi-Fi. In my router, the Connected Clients area allowed me to drag the devices to Highest, High and Medium based on my preferences of the number of internet capabilities they can access while all connected to the router.
2. Spectrum breakdowns
As we use our devices, we have different needs. For instance, in my home, I have a lot of wireless devices within close proximity of each other. By allowing these two different channels to run, it gives you the ability to differentiate the types of hardware you'd like to connect to your wireless router.
When I don't have the option of direct Ethernet hookup capabilities, I've opted to choose the 5GHz enabled wireless option for my streaming devices. I use the 2.4GHz primarily for the rest of the devices in my household that doesn't require all that much bandwidth in the first place.
3. Guest access
You can allow particular guests access to your router or just plain turn it off if you don't need it open. The advantages of turning this feature off are that you don't have someone outside of your household lifting your bandwidth out from under you.
If however, you decide you'd like to use the Guest Zone wireless setup, there are things you can do. You can give them limited access and bandwidth or even the wireless spectrum you prefer.
4. Apps for mobile management
If you have an older router, this may not be an option. Most modern Wi-Fi routers allow you to use mobile apps to connect channels, monitor signal strength and decrease the range of a signal, or other issues from any manufacturer’s router, all on your mobile device.
If you're using a router, you should use nothing less than WPA2 or WPA3 encryption when it becomes available. Simply enter your password into each wireless device once and the device will remember it. Security is paramount in today's tech age.
When WP3 becomes available, that will be the standard to use with it's added security for brute-force attacks, easier connection for devices without displays, higher security levels and privacy on public Wi-Fi networks.
There are a number of things that can negatively impact your wireless router connections, such as where it's placed and whether it's next to other electronic devices. Some can be controlled and others can't, based on where the Ethernet setup resides.
One of the main takeaways from this is that you have the ability to get into your router and configure it as your needs require. Don't the best router for your needs? Consider getting a new, more powerful one and set it up right the first time.
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