Most offices use WiFi today to provide alternative Internet access for staff and visitors. It can be very frustrating when WiFi performance becomes a problem – especially when WiFi speeds are no longer fast enough to meet business needs. Read on to diagnose your slow WiFi, and learn exactly how to speed it up.
How WiFi Works
To figure out why your WiFi may be slow, it helps to have a basic understanding of how WiFi works.
WiFi speeds are directly related to the underlying Internet service speeds provided by your Internet service provider (ISP). If your Internet service has a maximum speed of 5 Mbps, then your maximum WiFi speeds can only be 5 Mbps – and realistically, WiFi speeds will typically be slower.
WiFi is always less reliable than wired Internet access because of the inherent limitations related to wireless technology.
As the density (number of devices accessing WiFi) of a wireless network increases – not only in your office space but also in the surrounding spaces – the quality of your WiFi connection can decrease. Here is a normal scenario that plays out in offices all the time:
You start an office with five employees, who bring smartphones, laptops, and tablets that connect to your WiFi. There are no other tenants in the office spaces around your suite.
Over the next 12 months, you increase to 15 employees who connect to WiFi. Now all the surrounding office suites are also occupied, and each of those offices have 5-10 people accessing WiFi.
You decide to allow your guests to access WiFi, and you provide them with a guest password.
At this point, the WiFi density has increased dramatically and everyone is vying for the same wireless frequencies. Even though the other office suites are on different ISPs, the Internet is being broadcast over the same frequencies and everyone is sharing those frequencies.
It’s hard to catch this gradual increase in usage in your own office – but it’s even harder to notice it in the offices that surround yours. But this overall increase in WiFi usage is going to deteriorate your WiFi performance – and the technical setup that used to work for your business may now needs some upgrades.
The Limitations of WiFi
Businesses and WiFi users often expect WiFi to do more than it can do, too.
You may want to use tablets throughout your building, or wirelessly access software in the cloud while also doing VOIP (voice over the Internet) calls. While these things are technically possible, the WiFi performance will likely be poor. As you move around, you may enter dead zones (areas where the WiFi signal is poor). Also, the basic technical limitations of VOIP solutions ensure that wireless Internet calls are not going to deliver the same consistent quality that you’ll experience from a wired Internet connection or a landline phone (though this technology is improving quickly!).
More companies are also wanting to provide better WiFi access for their guests, who are often important customers. This is a great idea – but it does put additional pressure on the WiFi service. The more guests you have using your WiFi service, the less WiFi service is available for your internal staff.
How to Speed Up Your WiFi
So what’s a modern business to do?
Here are five tips:
- Have your IT service provider perform a detailed wireless assessment of your office space. Doing so will tell you
- The density of usage in your office and surrounding spaces
- What areas in the office have poor coverage
- What frequencies are used and how much
- Based on the wireless assessment, have your IT team make improvements by adding or moving wireless access points (WAPs) to cover dead zones. They can also fine-tune WAPs to use the frequencies with the best coverage.
- Cap your guest WiFi. First, make sure you guest WiFi network is secured by its own password. Then, segment it from the company WiFi with a “cap” configured to keep guest users from hogging all the WiFi bandwidth. For example, if you have 5 Mbps total bandwidth available, cap the guest WiFi to use no more than 1 Mbps to ensure employees always have the bandwidth they need to do their jobs.
- Evaluate how your office is using WiFi to confirm your current setup can actually meet expectations. If you are asking it to do too much, you should lower your expectations accordingly.
- If you have done all of the above and still want/need better service, go to your ISP and ask them to provide options and pricing for an increase in service. Going from 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps doubles the available bandwidth for everyone to use – and that includes WiFi.
In most cases, the best approach to increasing your WiFi speed is to educate yourself. Find out how your office is using WiFi and confirm what is actually possible with your current setup.
The smartest way to do this is to get a wireless assessment. We perform this assessment using very specific hardware and software tools. Once you’re armed with this information, you can figure out exactly what to do to improve your WiFi performance.