The Blog

All of the random thoughts that we have.

Part 2 – Improving your network

May 7, 2017

Welcome to part 2 of our Home Networking blog series, sit back, sip a warm cup of tea, and learn about your network.

We are covering Maximization of networks today, and will be discussing wireless signal strengths, improving network coverage and speeds, prioritizing traffic, and basic tools for parental controls.

Once you have built your network with the appropriate hardware, sometimes our needs will change, or our infrastructure won’t perform how we intend, this is the time to re-evaluate the network.

When trying to improve wireless signal strength around the house, you can take two different approaches, running Ethernet cables or EoP (Ethernet over Power) devices, or wireless repeating / boosting.  The latter of the two will be the easiest to implement but is not without its own disadvantages.
Wireless repeaters will take a wireless signal they are given (from something like your modem/router) and rebroadcast it, already we can see that the wireless repeater will have to be placed somewhere in your house that has decent Wi-Fi coverage, this will be fine for most applications, however if we were trying to cover an adjacent property or another floor in the house, getting a good Wi-Fi signal to repeat may become a bit of a problem, and that is usually when you will start looking at running Ethernet cables, or a EoP solution.
Ethernet cables and EoP allow internet and network traffic to travel through physical cable, thus giving flexibility of placement and greater range than a traditional wireless signal, at the termination point of the Ethernet cables or EoP module, a wireless access point or Router will need to be installed, these could give you more Ethernet ports for things like TV’s, Computers, Game Consoles etc., as well as extending the wireless coverage of your home.

BREAKDOWN

Wi-Fi Range Extenders:

Pros:
Inexpensive and quick to set up
Simple solution to boost coverage
Unobtrusive and applicable to rental properties
Easy to reposition / remove
No permanent modifications necessary.

Cons:
Gaming traffic will have higher latency / ping
Limited usability due to architecture of the devices
Reduced network speed when using multiple devices
Limited range
Placement is very particular, getting this right is key

Ethernet / EoP + Router / Access Point:

Pros:
Durable hidden infrastructure, requires little to no maintenance
Up to Gigabit speeds (depending on cables and hardware used)
No real increase in latency for gaming applications
Can be used up to 100m away with standard Ethernet cabling
Coverage of multiple levels
Many Ethernet cables can be run for a comprehensive solution

Cons:
More expensive than range extenders as you are buying multiple devices
Costly to install
Not easy to move / reposition
Setup and configuration is more complicated than range extenders

Now we move on to prioritizing network traffic.  Yes this can be done and should be set up at the time of installation and configuration.  We won’t be going into depth here on Quality of Service rules, or what ports to use, as there are numerous tutorials online for the exact modem / router you will be using.  In short, Quality of Service will prioritize network traffic you specify, for example, I could make sure my emails and attachments always get priority for my work computer, or give priority to a gaming console for that extra boost in reaction time and to reduce lag, how you implement this is up to you and is very much hardware specific.

Limiting what can be viewed at home on your network can be a daunting task when presented with the plethora of hardware and software solutions available on the internet, I will be covering the basics of a software solution provided by openDNS.com. With a solution like openDNS you configure a ‘midway station’ or sorts for your internet traffic, instead of going straight from a website to your computer, you are routing it through a filter.  The great thing about this is that everything is filtered, not just one or two computers.  Phones, tables, laptops, it is all managed externally.
OpenDNS is simple to set up and is designed so a basic computer user can get the ball rolling, setup is immediate and even suggests new sites that you may want to exclude from your family’s browser history.  When openDNS you can even create a custom splash screen, not a generic NOT ALLOWED response, and if your family thinks the filter has a page blocked in error, they can email it to you quickly and easily.  Read more here: http://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/parental-controls/

Ok, so that’s it from ASIT-Group this week, keep your eyes peeled for our next blog post coming from Alec, another one of our directors.

Till next time,
Alex

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