The other day a system administrator from a local financial organization called in from Chesterfield, MO and wanted to pick our brains about network hardware optimization.  So we thought, we might as well write a blog with how we helped this financial organization located just outside St. Louis overcome some pretty tough networking issues.

Has your network seemed like it’s running slower lately? What can you do to optimize sluggish networking hardware to pick up speed and improve efficiency?

It can happen so slowly, over time, that the difference is barely noticeable. Or it can happen in an instant, and suddenly your network seems to be working against you.

Is the sluggishness you’re experiencing a true slow-down, or does your network just seem like it’s not responding as fast as you’d like it to? The only way to know for sure is to run a speed test. A speed test is a good indicator if speeds have shifted, whether only slightly or rather significantly, based on expected transmission speeds. Important factors here are download speed and upload speed.

Time To Optimize Networking Hardware

If your speed test confirms your slowdown, the next step that comes to mind is to find the root of the issue – or issues. Is it your modem, or maybe your router? Will a reboot fix the issue?

It may solve today’s problem, but it’s not a permanent solution. The best approach is to optimize your networking hardware for the most efficient network performance.

Breaking down a network into its basic components helps give a clear picture of how a network operates. Most of the time, you can optimize your networking hardware with a few simple actions, and get a significant boost in speeds that way.

  • Modem
    • The modem is what connects to the Internet through cable or telephone line at a wall outlet.
  • Router
    • The router connects to your modem to literally “route” data throughout your network and via Wi-Fi.
  • Ethernet cable
    • This is the cable that connects your router to your modem, enabling communication and connectivity for devices like smartphones, laptop computers and desktop workstations, servers, printers, and peripherals to your network.

With any networking hardware, optimization should encompass two goals:

  • The network design and set-up has the lowest overall cost
  • The network realizes the maximum data throughput

Achieving both goals results in the most cost-efficient network speed, optimal utilization of system resources, and helps make sure anyone accessing a network enjoys improvements in productivity.

The Bigger Picture

Hardware resources that connect to a network are in the best position to give insight into network performance. Data flow is the greatest and most obvious factor that determines networking hardware needs and areas for improvement. What measures can you take before making a greater impact on the budget?

Network activity relies on access, which is dependent on signal strength – which can be boosted! Here are a few tips to help you take advantage of a boosted network signal for improved connectivity:

#1 – Location, Location, Location

  • Just as with real estate, where you place your router is everything! Signals sent from a router antenna radiate in an equidistant speed in every direction at once, so aim for a central location.
  • Elevate a network router, and don’t place next to or inside walled rooms. The best place is attached to a ceiling or on a shelf toward the middle of an office or room.

#2 – Check Router Firmware

  • The software built into your router is called firmware, and it will occasionally need updating, too. Just like with software on a computer, router manufacturers will release firmware updates to improve performance, but also security.

#3 – Signal Extenders

  • Extenders are devices that intercept a network signal and then repeat the signal, extending it beyond its original reach. Since the signal that extenders are picking up is already somewhat diminished by distance, this isn’t the perfect solution but helps where few other options can.

#4 – Upgrade

  • While upgrading your router is the least ideal approach, since it involves a financial investment, sometimes it’s the best option. As with any other software or device, advancements in technology prohibit an endless lifespan for devices like routers. Signal interruptions and delays can be the signs and symptoms that a router is nearing the end of its usefulness and it’s time for an upgrade.

What else can you do besides pepper a home, office, or home office with modems and routers? You can also divide a network’s bandwidth between devices with signal segregating. Routers transmit signals between any two devices – networks typically have more than two devices, but at any one moment, a router is transmitting the signal from a modem and relaying it to a device engaging the signal, repeated multiple times by individual users. These signals are broadcast over channels and wavelengths, determined by the technology your devices and router are capable of supporting.

Signal segregating presents a few challenges, but here are a few tips to help:

#1 – Choose The Strongest Channel

  • Did you know you can scan the networks using a channel in your area to see how “busy” the channel is? When using a computer or smartphone, you can see the full list of networks nearby. On most desktops or laptops, you can use the wireless diagnostics or Wi-Fi Analyzer to switch channels to a less “crowded” channel to avoid interference and delay.
  • If you can access the router’s dashboard, you can also change the channel here. Router dashboards are usually accessed through the router’s IP address like a URL by entering it in your web browser.
    • Popular router manufacturer’s IP addresses:
      • Apple: 10.0.1.1
      • Linksys: 192.168.1.1
      • Netgear, D-Link: 192.168.0.1
      • Belkin, Motorola: 192.168.2.1

#2 – Old Versus New

  • Older devices are restricted to older technology, so it makes sense to segregate signals using a “dual-band” network. This type of signal segregating depends on routers using newer technology, too.

Efficient Network, Efficient Teams

Networking hardware optimization genuinely boosts network speed, and users can “see” the difference, with faster data transfers and improved response times for applications, especially with remote employees accessing a virtual private network (VPN).

With the number of users in a condensed space, like in an office or public building in Chesterfield, and the proximity to other networks, networking hardware optimization keeps networks running smoothly and productivity at peak levels. As the amount of data that modern businesses generate increases, the growth will only continue to strain network architecture and decrease efficiency.

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