By the end of 2013, there were more mobile devices than humans on the planet, and Sys-Con says more than 7 billion new WiFi enabled devices will come to exist over the next three years. Ninety-three percent of tablet users use them with WiFi connections only, and 90% of people have a mobile device within reach 100% of the time.
Great IT service management requires that WiFi networks be properly designed and configured, especially in the crowded 2.4 GHz band. The IT service desk has to worry about interference from nearby wireless networks, and capacity issues when there are large numbers of users. Today’s business may provide WiFi access to two or more devices per worker, and possibly to guests as well.
The latest WiFi standard, 802.11ac, is significantly faster than its predecessor, 802.11n. So if you’re still using one of the old routers, the easiest way to get more performance out of your network is to upgrade them. Here are some other ways the IT service desk can get the most from your WiFi network.
1. Choose Router Location Carefully
Water, metal, glass, brick, and human bodies can impede WiFi signals. If you’re not sure where to start in finding the right location for a router, try to find a centrally located, open space where you can place the router high off the ground. Knowing how many and what kind of WiFi-enabled devices will be using the network can also influence placement and number of access points.
2. Measure Your Signal Strength After Placement
Believe it or not, just a few feet of difference in the placement of your routers can make the difference between better and worse WiFi reception. Have someone on the IT service desk use a mobile app like Amped’s WiFi Analytics Tool to walk around and check for interference and signal strength, as well as identifying any dead spots. This can help you narrow down the possibilities for best router placement.
3. Choose Another Channel
Most 2.4 GHz routers use 11 channels and are by default set for channel 1, 6, or 11 since the frequencies don’t overlap. If a neighboring business uses the same channel as yours, changing your channel can reduce interference. Routers that operate in the 5 GHz range are much less prone to interference in the first place, but you can switch channels to see if it helps with interference. To quickly identify router locations and channels, you can use an app like WiEye for Android to find nearby wireless networks and what channels they’re on.
4. Use Different Frequencies for Different Things
If your router operates on two frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), you can have two networks running at once: one for devices using the low frequency and one for devices using the higher frequency. The 5 GHz band is less crowded and better for bandwidth-hungry uses like streaming. If your router supports it, you can use “band steering” to guide clients onto the 5 GHz channel to help alleviate crowding on the 2.4 GHz channel. Keep in mind, however, that the 5 GHz channel generally has less range.
5. Use WPA2 Security
Good security management is essential to good IT service management, and although WPA security works with both 802.11n and 802.11ac routers, with WPA, data rates are limited to 54 Mbps. When your IT service desk uses WPA2 only for security, you allow for maximum throughput. Any routers that don’t support WPA2 security should be upgraded.
6. Don’t Forget About Wired Access
Great IT service management sometimes means knowing when the more established technology is better. The newest WiFI standards are very fast, but wired is still faster and more reliable. If your IT service desk deals with devices that use a lot of bandwidth but stay in one location, directly linking these devices to your router allows for fast access and saves wireless connections for devices that don’t stay in one place.
For the IT service desk to ensure great IT service management, you have to have a wireless network that’s fast and can handle the increasing number of devices using it. In some cases, routers should be updated, and in others, there are ways to configure your routers to get the most out of them. The use of modern tools and software makes it possible to track every router and its specs, so it’s easier to make sure they’re all positioned and configured optimally, and to know when it’s time for them to be upgraded.
About Matt Fuchs
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