Upgrading Your Wi-Fi Network to 802.11n

    When would it be a good time to replace your existing Wi-Fi router? According to Rick Broida of PC World, symptoms such as slower than usual connectivity, poor coverage and intermittent loss of connection may indicate that it’s time to make an upgrade.

    According to Broida, below are some below-the-hood issues that may be the cause of the above symptoms.

    Heat may have damaged internal components over time, resulting in unstable operation.

    Older Wi-Fi routers may not support 802.11n; or they may consist of slower or out-of-date 802.11n modules.

    No support for dual-band wireless.

    While Broida was writing in the context of home Wi-Fi routers, these are likely to be the same issues faced by businesses that have deployed consumer-grade gear in their SMB or SOHO (Small Office Home Office). In a way, the cheaper cost of consumer APs are certainly compelling, especially when costs are calculated using the typical home wireless router as a metric.

    Regular readers of this blog, however, will know that I am a strong advocate of using proper business-grade Wi-Fi access points (AP) for business networks. As I wrote in in this recent post, wireless APs are designed for businesses built to more stringent standards catered around intensive, 24/7 operation. Moreover, they are also tested with a much more intensive load of client devices that you would find in a typical home environment.

    And before you underestimate the number of Wi-Fi devices in your office, BYOD effectively means that a small office of just 20 employees could see upwards of 30 client devices based on a conservative estimate of 1.5 devices per person. Considering that workers may bring a laptop, smartphone and tablet each, it is evident that an estimate of 1.5 devices per worker is low indeed.

    Moreover, I’ve personally used a handful of consumer wireless APs over the years, and have seen them freeze, suffer from erratic performance or inexplicably reboot by themselves. This has resulted in network slowdowns or other bizarre network problems — often occurring at inconvenient moments such as when downloading a large file, or when rushing a deadline. On the other hand, none of these problems are evident in the business-grade AP that I’ve been using for the last couple of years.

    In a nutshell, if your organization is still struggling along with a non-802.11n Wi-Fi deployment, it may be a good time to deploy 802.11n today — and use the opportunity to implement it using proper business-grade APs. On that front, you can read about five tips to help your SMB switch to 802.11n Wi-Fi for additional pointers.

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