One of the biggest side effects to everyone suddenly working at home is that many people are finding that their residential Internet connection is suddenly overstressed. This might not be such a big deal for mundane day-to-day work, but it can be especially problematic for those online meetings. This is especially true for video conferencing. Thankfully, there are some home network tweaks that you can do to improve your video conferencing.
Improve video conferencing? It can be done
Here are a few home network tweaks and other ideas that may get you up to speed.
Why is my Internet connection so slow?
There are any number of reasons why your Internet connection could be running slowly. For example, if everyone in your neighborhood is suddenly using the Internet more heavily than they have in the past, then the shared connection that services your neighborhood will inevitably be congested with more traffic than ever before. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about that. What you may be able to do something about, however, is the WiFi connection within your own home.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, WiFi was beginning to suffer from signal saturation. We are all constantly adding more and more devices to our WiFi networks, and each of these devices has to compete for a limited amount of WiFi bandwidth.
Who is using my network?
One of the first things that I recommend doing is logging into your wireless access point (your Internet router) and taking a look at the devices that are attached to it. Be sure to look at both your primary network and your guest network (if you have one). The exact method used to do this is going to vary depending on the make and model of your router, but most wireless routers will display a screen similar to the one shown below.
As you look at the screenshot above, you will notice that some of the devices that are attached to my router are wireless (designated by the orange WiFi logo), and some are wired (designated by the ETH logo). Wired devices can consume Internet bandwidth but do not consume WiFi bandwidth.
As you look through the list of connected devices, the first thing that I recommend doing is to try to identify each device. If there are unknown devices on your network then a neighbor may be leeching off of your Internet connection, adding to the slowdown. You might consider blocking the device or changing your WiFi password to prevent this activity.
Even if you don’t discover any unauthorized devices, it is important to understand that every device on your WiFi network adds to the wireless congestion. As such, you might consider temporarily disabling nonessential devices. If you do this, be sure to turn the device off or disable the device’s WiFi capabilities. Otherwise, it will still be broadcasting a WiFi signal even if it is not connected to your WiFi network.
Prioritize wireless traffic
Another thing that you might be able to do is to prioritize your bandwidth usage so that the devices that you use for work take a higher priority than devices used for entertainment or other purposes. Not every wireless router has the ability to do this, but some of the more expensive models (especially those marketed toward gamers) include features that allow you to prioritize traffic. To see if your router has this ability, look for menu options related to Quality of Service or QoS.
Use parental controls
One of the more creative ways in which you may be able to improve your Internet performance is by making use of parental controls. While you won’t likely find viable parental control settings built directly into your router (at least not the type that I am about to describe), many third-party parental control tools allow you to regulate Internet usage among the members of your household.
While it’s easy to think of parental control applications as being little more than filters designed to keep kids away from porn sites, some can regulate Internet usage. Net Nanny, for instance, lets you limit overall screen time or restrict kids from using devices during certain times of the day.
If you are suffering from Internet bandwidth saturation, you might consider blocking others in your household from using the Internet during your working hours. If that seems like an excessively cruel measure, then you might consider blocking some specific sites or services during business hours rather than totally locking down the Internet. For example, you might block Netflix since video streaming consumes a lot of bandwidth.
Home network tweaks: Always check the basics
While there are any number of home network tweaks and tricks that you can use to reclaim some of your router’s WiFi bandwidth, I also strongly recommend checking your router’s basic settings. One of the first things that I recommend doing is to verify that your router is equipped with the latest firmware update. Keeping up to date with the latest firmware is an important part of keeping your wireless network secure, but it can also help with performance. Wireless router manufacturers often release firmware updates that are designed to improve the wireless network’s overall performance.
In some cases, staying up to date with the latest firmware is simply a matter of periodically logging into the router and checking to see if a new firmware update has been made available recently. However, routers are increasingly beginning to include an auto firmware update option, such as the one shown below.
While you are at it, make sure that your channel selection is set to Auto. This allows clients to communicate across the best available channel rather than locking them into using a specific channel that may be overly congested.
Some routers also feature a smart connect option that you can optionally enable. Smart connect allows clients to automatically choose between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands based on which is likely to deliver the best experience at the moment.
Help is on the way to improve video conferencing
Hopefully, some of the home network tweaks and advice that I have given you will help to improve your Internet connection’s ability to handle work-related video conferencing. In any case, though, I do have some good news for you. There are two reasons why things are about to get better.
First, the pandemic can’t last forever. In many places, businesses are slowly beginning to reopen. As more and more people go back to work, there will be less strain on residential Internet.
The other reason why your video conferencing experience is about to improve is that in the United States the FCC has recently authorized 6GHz WiFi. This is going to open an additional 1200MHz of the wireless spectrum for WiFi use. You might recall how the adoption of 5.2GHz WiFi initially cleared some of the congestion from the 2.4GHz band as people rushed to adopt the new technology. There will be a similar effect as the new 6GHz devices become available.
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