Creating A Strong and Stable Home Network

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Thanks to COVID-19, there are thousands of attorneys and their support team working full-time from their homes. Obviously, they can only remain productive if they make sure that they have a strong and stable home network. Below you will find some information about making sure that your home network is as secure, powerful, and efficient as possible.

What To Know About Internet Speed

The common way to measure Internet speed is mbps, which is an acronym for “megabits per second.” This measures bandwidth and gives you an idea of the speed at which you are downloading data. If you want to stream videos in high definition, you should aim for a speed of at least 5 Mbps. If you live in a household of 3-5 people, you might need an Internet speed closer to 100 or 200 mbps.

This is a lot different from the internet speed required for a lawyer, who may need to send large files over the Internet frequently. To accomplish this, you will likely require a speed of at least 40 mbps. Ultimately, lawyers working from home should be aiming for a speed of 100 mbps or more to support full communications. Skype group calls and Zoom meetings are also possible at around 10 mbps but much more stable and better in terms of audio and video quality as speed increases.

Modem vs Router

Before we go forward, we should note that Internet connections in your home and/or business will either stem from a modem or router. A modem is a box that connects your home to the Internet, while a router is more focused on connecting wired AND wireless devices to the Internet. Your internet service provider (ISP) may even offer a box that serves as both a modem and router. You will need both for an Internet connection.

You may save money every month if you choose to purchase your own modem and router, rather than renting it from an ISP. One important thing to remember regarding routers is to update the firmware consistently. Many businesses (and households) choose to replace their router every year or two.

These days, your modem may come with a built-in wireless router. However, it’s important to note that:

  1. Not all modems contain routers.
  2. Not all routers contain modems.

Ethernet As an Option

It might be better for those who are constantly on video calls or involved in gaming to consider an Ethernet connection rather than a wi-fi connection. This means a direct, cable connection from your modem to your laptop or desktop. Unfortunately, most new laptops do not come with an ethernet port (they’re too thin!). If you do have an ethernet port though, it is definitely the way to go. Many have pointed out that Ethernet is a lot better when it comes to video calls. Wi-fi usually leads to packet loss (a degradation in audio and video quality because of the way data is sent across the internet). If there is a lot of Wi-fi congestion, it can affect your video calls and meetings considerably.

Ethernet removes those challenges, which is why you might want to consider it. The packets of data can travel much easier since there is a physical connection through a cable. If you are trying to hold video calls with clients, Ethernet WILL be your best bet for high quality video and sound.

Testing Speed

Many of us want to test Internet speed to ensure that the Internet connection is smooth and that we are getting the speed promised by our services provider. You might feel as though you are having some connectivity issues, but what about actually testing your Internet speed? Luckily, you can do so easily by heading over to Speedtest at speedtest.net. There are iOS and Android apps for Speedtest, as well. Just be sure you know what speed you are paying for when testing -you’ve got to know what to expect. If the numbers seem significantly lower, you should call your serivce provider.

If your computer or other devices are still not as fast as they should be, here are some additional steps that can be taken:

  • Use a free DNS tester and consider using a different one if necessary.
  • Call your ISP and ask them to replace the modem.
  • Connect your computer directly into the modem. If the Internet speeds are enormously different, that could mean that the router is the real issue.

Should I Boost My Wi-Fi?

Many of us might have everything set up “correctly”, only to find that Internet speeds aren’t that fast. Our ISP might have advertised a specific rate, but we might have too many devices to maintain that promised speed. Often, the real Internet speed will be as much as 20% to 50% lower than the advertised rate.

There are some solutions to this issue. Many choose to turn to a Wi-Fi booster of some kind to help make sure that their network is as strong and stable as possible. You can also use a Wi-fi repeater, which “repeats” the signal to a finite area, but these usually aren’t as effective as Wi-fi boosters.

Wi-fi boosters, also called Wi-fi extenders, can be a great tool to help create a strong and stable home network. They “boost” or extend a Wi-fi signal farther. First, it’s worth purchasing if there happen to be areas inside your home where the Wi-fi signal completely disappears or seems to be particularly slow. Another situation in which a Wi-fi booster can help tremendously is if you simply want the most advanced Wi-fi technology possible. It will need to be placed strategically, because it has to be close enough to the router to grab its signal, but also far away enough so that it can re-broadcast that signal throughout the rest of your home.

It can also come in handy if you live in a particularly big home. At the end of the day, it is harder for Wi-Fi to cover an entire mansion than a small home, for example, and it is less likely for Wi-Fi to reach all areas of a home if it is extremely large. Wi-Fi boosters are also great if you feel like working outside, as well, because it can help you maintain a strong network in your backyard or on your porch.

General Tips

There are many individuals and businesses that might be a bit lost when it comes to best practices for setting up a home network. Of course, it should be noted that this depends on your needs. A individual with a few devices at home has very different needs than a family of 5 who has two parents and 3 children on video calls these days. Here are some general tips to remember when it comes to making sure that your home network is stable.

  1. Location: There are many situations in which you might have a router in another room in your house and wonder why your connection isn’t that strong. The answer might simply be the location of the router. If your router has to communicate through walls or other solid objects, it will make the connection much weaker. The best solution to this problem is simple: place your wireless router in your home’s central location, no matter what.
  2. Actual Connection: Yes, we all know that routers are meant to connect wirelessly. However, a wired connection is ALWAYS better. Many people seem to forget this, but it almost always means that you will be getting a more stable connection and enjoying higher speeds.
  3. Turn off devices that you aren’t using. It’s a simple tip that many people forget, given the fact that the average U.S. family alone has about eleven devices. If you turn off devices that you aren’t using, it can go a long way towards improving connections and speeds.
  4. Change the default passwords. This doesn’t just apply to your WPA2 passkey, which allows devices to connect to your router. It also means that you should be consistently changing the administrative password, as well. Changing passwords will help to prevent others from joining your network and using your Internet, which can reduce speeds.
  5. About the Author(s)

    Adriana Linares is a legal technology consultant with her company, LawTech Partners. Using her practical and personal approach to technology, she helps legal professionals use it to maximize their skills and investments through training and consulting. Linares serves as a technology consultant to The Florida Bar Board of Governors and is the vice chair of the 2016 ABA Techshow.