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The importance of a great home network & WiFi design in today’s San Diego homes.

by Glen Keoghan

For most families, the home network and WiFi are as important as hot and cold running water. If Maslow was alive he would have included WiFi in his hierarchy of needs table. It’s right up there with food and shelter as a primary need nowadays. More so if you have children of any age. I can hear your children’s screams from my place when the internet drops out or it’s turned off.

Now in saying that it seems to me that the amount of thought time and consideration allocated to this primary need would lead me to believe this is not a true statement. You see for most households WiFi is provided by the free cable modem/router combo stuffed into some obscure corner of the house, and if you are really lucky it might be located somewhere close to your entertainment equipment so you can enjoy all these new streaming TV services.

Over the last 5 years, we have also had explosive growth in the number of devices (TV’s, media streaming boxes (Apple TV’s, Roku’s), smart speakers, tablets, iPads, phones, laptops, doorbells, cameras, etc) that want to connect to WiFi and our home networks. Which has lead most families down a path of trying to find a way to get WiFi into the far-flung reaches of the house that was not even a consideration 5 years ago?

Now if you live in a house that is a 1000sqf or smaller then this is not an issue unless there is lots of concrete or block in the dividing walls between rooms that can be common in some modern condos. Now if you live in a house 2500sqf or larger then you will know all about this.

Like it or not the home network is here to stay and WiFi is not going away anytime soon.

In most households the home network is a cobbled-together contraption of old and new bits and pieces collected up over the years with varying degrees of performance, dotted around the house and can only be worked on if you are lucky by the resident household technology enthusiast, or if you are not so lucky a visiting friend or relative.

This cobbled-together approach is ok if you are watching your penny’s, and the frustration of things not working as they should is acceptable because of the investment trade-off, but when we are asked for help we don’t want to leave these elements in place.

Why not, you ask? Well ...

The home network (wired and wireless (WiFi)) is the foundation element of a home’s entertainment needs now, as well as the platform of any smart home goodies you may already have, or you may want to add later. Your entertainment enjoyment is tied to this. No one wants to watch a stuttering movie or get the spinning the wheel of death when trying to listen or watch something. And it’s not that easy or in some cases practical to move the TV a little to the left as the signal was stronger there the other day.

By the way, some of these connected devices have varying qualities of antennas installed in them. This means just because it worked on your phone in that spot, does not mean it will work on your printer.

We can’t leave things to chance. It might work ok is not an answer you will hear out of our mouths.

We take a lot of things into consideration when we design a home network.

Now a lot of our clients work from home, have speakers in the yard and need WiFi everywhere, and good solid WiFI, not a hit and miss approach that worked here yesterday but not today. So when we design a network we account for this.

Here is the nerdy bit and I promise to keep it brief and explain things in everyday language. The modem router you get from your ISP or cable provided is four devices in one. It’s designed for smaller houses and works well in this smaller environment most of the time. But put this same device in a bigger house then it’s not the right solution, why you ask? Well because in a bigger house you need more some of the items that make up this product and not the others.

When you know what parts do what it’s easier to think about what parts you will need more of, we design our networks using individual components listed below this way we can get more or less of each item so we can scale the components to fit the project.

The four parts are as follows;

1. The Modem, this part connects you to the outside world, if you have cable this is the bit that connects the cable coming in off the street and converts the date from your cable company to something your router can use. You only need one of these.

2. The router, think of this like a traffic cop routing traffic at the intersection. The router is directing and routing information to all the various devices (phones, TVs, tablets, streaming media boxes, printers, etc) on the network both wired and wireless. It hands out network addresses to all the devices on the network and knows where they are, who they are and what they are. It’s like the brain and works 24/7 all information on your network routes through this device. You only need one of these in a project and it needs to be capable of handling all the network traffic at once. The more devices you have the better this piece of equipment needs to be.

3. A switch, this is the bit that you plug the hardwired devices into. They come in various sizes most Cable companies supplied units have 4 hardwired connections available. In our projects, we typically hardwire as many devices as we can as it’s still 10 times faster than the fastest wireless, so we select a switch size that allows us to plug in 8, 16, 24 or sometimes 48+ devices. You typically only want one switch in a house that can handle all the connections.

4. The WiFi antenna. This is the bit that broadcasts the WiFi signal around the house, and all your wireless devices connect via this antenna. Most houses we work in need 3 or more of these devices and they are called Wireless Access Points or (WAPS) for short and they are typically hardwired back to a switch. We use WAPS that can also use wireless to talk back to the switch but only if we have to and only if there is not a wired option available.

So for bigger houses, they will need multiple WAPS, a bigger network switch, and a router capable of handling all the traffic on the network. Now there are potential problems with multiple WAPS placed around the house if not configured correctly. One is that you can be standing right under a WAP in the Kitchen, but because you moved from the bedroom your device (phone) is still hanging onto your connecting in the bedroom. Neither device is smart enough to know there is a better stronger signal closer, so it does not switch to the kitchen WAP. Not a great solution. Your network does not know the other WAP exists and it does not know when to change.

All our networks we design and deploy have a centralized controller that manages all the network devices; it knows where the other WAP’s are. It knows where your phone is and what its signal strength is relative to where you are so it can initiate the change for you.

This is how a modern home network should operate, and the best bit about this is it’s not prohibitively expensive to deploy.

So if you want a robust quality home network with great WiFi in your San Diego home, please get in touch with us. We would love to help.

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