You’re currently on a conference call you’ve prepared for all week. The kids are upstairs playing League of Legends when the network crashes. You’re abruptly cut from your conference call and your kids are cut off from their game. They’ll need to find something else to do, you explain to them, because the network just can’t support all of this bandwidth. Maybe it’s finally time to address the issue, once and for all.

Today there’s a greater demand on the home network than ever before. As new devices – such as smart TVs, phones, tablets, gaming consoles, and thermostats – are introduced to the home, a heavier burden is placed on your home network. If you want it to be reliable – it’s important to consider the demands of the modern home and ensure that your network is designed to support it.

WIRED VS. WIRELESS NETWORKS

At Definitive, we recommend hardwired networks when possible, because they are more reliable and there are not as many factors that can affect performance. With a wire running from point A to point B, there are only a few things that can slow down the connection: a cut wire, poor quality cable, or switches. These can all be avoided with quality install and well-designed systems.

Wireless networks can be more complicated, with many factors potentially affecting signal and reliability.

A few considerations include:

  • Interference from other sources (i.e. your neighbors’ network).
  • Wireless access points becoming overloaded as it splits bandwidth between users.
  • Layout and construction of your home. Plaster, metal, and concrete provide challenges for the signal to move through freely.
  • Even with a new 802.11ac wireless access point, older devices that are not compliant require the whole access point to slow down to accommodate the older protocol.
  • Placement in your home. When you place access points in an enclosed space, the signal is dampened. The ideal is an open space with no barriers, near the ceiling. We understand that might not be ideal for everyone and there may be a trade-off for aesthetics and peak performance.

Think of your wireless network as an extension of your hardwired network, using it for the benefits of mobility. Of course, many devices – such as your phone and tablet – do not have a wired option. However, if you want top speed, you can use the Ethernet connection for your laptop while sitting at your desk. Then enjoy the freedom of wireless when you’re cozy on the couch.

Now, lets take a deeper look at these components.

  1. Dedicated Modem
    A modem allows your device to communicate to your internet service provider. All-in-one modems are really geared toward very simplified networks. They don’t work well for homes, as the number of connected devices increase.
  2. Router
    The router is critical. As head of the entire network their role is to direct traffic between your home network and the internet, or Wide Area Network (WAN). There are varying degrees of quality when it comes to a router and it’s important to remember that modems and routers should be separated and not an all-in-one device. Choose a router that can provide a robust foundation from which the Wi-Fi and other equipment can function.
    There are also routers that offer the ability to use multiple internet connections – a good backup in case of ISP failure. You may also consider 3G/4G cellular connections.
  3. Network Switches
    The network switch is integral to your hardwired network. Its purpose is to direct traffic among devices inside your home network, or Local Area Network (LAN). Network switches come with 5, 8, 12, 16, 24, or 48 port variants and can include built-in Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE is a much cleaner solution if you want to power and connect access points or IP cameras. An unmanaged switch provides the benefit of plug and play options, with no ability to do custom configuration. If you are looking for more flexibility, select a managed switch to provide virtual LANs, port mirroring, port-based quality of service limits, power cycling PoE devices, and event logging.
  4. Wireless Controller
    The wireless controller is the brain of the Wi-Fi solution. When you get to three or more wireless access points, we strongly recommend having a controller in order to effectively manage, configure, and maintain a strong network. One of the biggest mistakes is when wireless access points of different makes and models are deployed. For optimal network performance, make sure all access points utilize the same technologies, provide consistent coverage, and all are compatible with the selected wireless controller.
  5. Wireless Access Points
    The wireless access point (or WAP) provides a Wi-Fi signal over a certain range, depending on the make and model. Additional options for outdoor spaces include WAPs that provide a robust enterprise class option and are specifically designed to be weatherproof and mounted outside.
  6. Wireless Mesh Networking
    A wireless mesh network is a network created through the connection of wireless access points, where each network user is a provider. This is not ideal as a single solution to your home network. We only recommend a wireless mesh network when wired networks are not a viable option. The reality is that these networks are less reliable and cut speed in half.

FINDING THE RIGHT HOME NETWORK PACKAGE

Now that you know the components of a robust wireless system, let’s look at how they’re put together, based on the size of your home. The number of switches with varying port counts will be needed to support the desired layout of the network.

Small Package Medium Package Large Package
for small homes & condos
> than 2,000 square feet
for medium homes
2,000 – 5,000 square feet
for large homes
5,000 – 7,000 square feet
1 – Cable modem 1 – Cable modem 1 – Cable modem
1 – Router 1 – Router 1 – Router
1 or 2 – Wireless Access Points 2 or 3 – Wireless Access Points 4 or more – Wireless Access Points
1 – Wireless Controller 1 –  Wireless Controller

While these packages provide a baseline for what to expect, upgrading your home network is a highly customizable experience. The best way to find a reliable network is to have your home evaluated by a networking specialist — especially if your home is large and more complex. During this visit, the specialist can gain insight into your family’s needs and goals, as well as identify any concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed.

DEFINITIVE TEAM HIGHLIGHT

Definitive has a team of trained specialists to work with homeowners to create technology solutions that are designed for their specific home and lifestyle.

Brian Crites
Director of Technology

Brian has been with Definitive since 2008, and previously worked in product development at Microsoft. As part of the Definitive leadership team, he identifies the best technologies, processes and implementation strategies to create effective customer solutions.

Zachary Bellido
Network Specialist

Recently moving from Las Vegas, Zach has been with Definitive since 2016. He is a problem solver, who values creating systems that focus on usability and reliability.

If you’d like to make your network more reliable or extend your existing home network – reach out to us to discuss your project.