The corona crisis forces a large number of employees into their home office. This means that employees in their own homes also have to do without the fast company network. But video conferences should also run as smoothly as possible in the home office when the children are watching Netflix next door or playing online games on the game console.
An overview of some tips on how to optimally set up your home network.
The right connection
It all starts with the choice of the internet provider. Depending on the connection to the house, users have four options: DSL, cable, mobile radio and fiber optics. Of these connections, only the fiber optic line to the home (FTTH) guarantees that the full bandwidth will be received by customers. With DSL and cable, neighbors share a line, which can lead to bottlenecks. With LTE routers, however, bad weather can cause poor reception.
If you want to surf at gigabit speed, you don’t have to rely on fiber optics anymore. Internet providers such as Vodafone now offer gigabit connections via the cable connection. The problem: The data still comes into the houses over the last few meters via copper cables. It can happen that on a Sunday evening at prime time a maximum of 1000 megabits per second (Mbit / s) can become a meager 25 Mbit / s, because the video streams are loaded everywhere in the area.
Cable beats WLAN
If you are working on a desktop PC or laptop at home, you should plug your computer into a LAN cable if possible, recommends Ralf Boden from the Dresden University of Applied Sciences. “In any case, cables transmit data better than WLAN,” says the electrical engineering professor. “You simply have a lot of interference potential via WLAN.” This is due, among other things, to the routers of the neighbors, to signal-damping walls and microwaves that are on the same frequency. “For the home office, I would rather describe WLAN as an emergency solution.”
If the computer is close to the router, the cable can usually be easily connected to the RJ45 socket. Depending on the computer model, an adapter is required. The cable should meet the Cat-5 standard as far as possible in order to send data through the home network at maximum speed. Also a speed test in the browser like him speedtest.net and SpeedOf.me deliver is only really reliable if a LAN cable is connected directly to the router. If the promised bandwidth does not arrive, then it is usually up to the internet provider.
Data from the socket
If you live in an older house, you usually have to do without LAN cables in the walls. If the router is then on the ground floor and the work computer in the attic, it becomes problematic with the wiring. Powerline adapters can help. These are devices that send data over the power grid. Within a circuit, the adapters exchange the Internet data between sockets several hundred meters away.
Actually, the theory speaks against the use of such adapters, says Ralf Boden. “The transmission signal has to be greatly reduced because the power cables act as antennas.” However, the technology has made great strides in recent years and the interference signals are being calculated better and better. “From my experience, Powerline adapters deliver very good quality,” says Boden.
Router regulates the data flow
The router is the control center of the home network. In order to send the WLAN to as many rooms as possible, the device should be mounted centrally and at the top of the ceiling. Proven standards such as 802.11n or 802.11ac master most routers. This means that data can be sent on the 2.4 gigahertz band for a longer range or on the 5 gigahertz band for faster and less interference-prone transmission. The frequency and the channel selection can be left to the automatic router. If you have been using the same router for more than five years, you should consider buying a new device.
Ralf Boden is not yet completely sure about the new WiFi standard Wifi 6 (802.11ax). “We are slowly coming to areas where Wifi 6 is worthwhile.” However, there is still little practical experience, the tests must continue to be observed. However, a router that masters the Docsis 3.1 transmission standard (“Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification”) is essential for cable customers with a 1000 Mbit / s line. Only then will the gigabit bandwidth arrive in the living room.
Mesh networks and repeaters for large apartments
If you live in a large house with several floors, you can also use the WiFi range Repeaters increase. The socket adapters simply pick up the signal and pass it on. It is a little more elegant with a so-called Mesh network. Manufacturers such as Google, AVM and Netgear promise with their mesh offerings a more powerful wireless network because the individual nodes coordinate with each other. Connected devices such as smartphones and tablets should quickly find out which access point is nearby and therefore faster to reach. The catch: If you want to create a mesh network, you have to choose a manufacturer, otherwise the devices are not compatible. Repeaters are also cheaper.
If the game console dodges and Netflix is running in the living room during a video conference in the next room, bandwidth can become scarce. So that the conference does not jerk and the multiplayer game does not end, many routers and switches offer a function to prioritize the data flow. With a so-called Quality of Service (QoS), the router then determines which device is preferred in the home network.
With this setting, game consoles can be added to the list of devices that have to respond quickly to network requests and rely on low latency. With video conferences, on the other hand, it is worth assigning the computer a permanent minimum bandwidth so that the conversation does not end when, for example, a large download starts on the tablet. If several devices are on the priority list, the bandwidth is distributed evenly.
Security in the home network
First of all, the WLAN should be secured with WPA2 encryption. This is the minimum level of security so that nobody can intercept and read the data. In addition, the default passwords for all devices in the home network should be changed. Anyone who has the option of activating a guest network for visitors should also do so. Through this network, guests can then surf the Internet, but not access network hard drives and other devices in the home network.
According to Ralf Boden, the most important thing is that the connection to the employer is secured. “In my opinion, anyone who works in the home office must be connected to their company via a VPN connection.” This clarifies that the data is encrypted at the IP level. In addition, one should not use the private PC, but a separate work computer with constantly updated virus protection.