I don’t know exactly what the future holds or what phones are going to look like in a few years time but I am pretty certain that in the near future more and more phone conversations are going to go over the internet. Desk phone systems, mobiles and soft phones are all using the internet more and more.
A Brief Background To Hosted Telephony
Hosted telephony has been around for ages, since the 1960’s in fact. For many years it was run over ordinary phone lines and this type of system is known as Centrex. Some of you may have heard of BT’s Featureline version of it which is still being used today. Featureline or Centrex is a phone system housed centrally back at the exchange that you can access using special phones connected to it over ordinary telephone lines. Compared to today’s internet phone systems it’s a little clunky but it still works well enough.
Hosted telephony over the internet on the other hand has had a difficult birth but has grown up and works really well now. Some people call it a Cloud service which indeed it is. Its origins go back to the early 1970’s but it took until around 2004 before this type of telephony became a credible service. With the advent of faster and more reliable broadband in the last few years it’s now become a low cost and reliable service that is easily made available to domestic and business users alike.
I love Hosted Telephony
There were around 155 million subscribers to internet based telephony in 2013 (source Point Topic)
I have been involved with Hosted Telephony for around 10 years and I think it’s a brilliant service. I thought it was a fantastic concept the first time I was introduced to it. The trouble in the early days was that it didn’t work very well and the broadband available just wasn’t up to it. I have to say there were some very painful moments in the early days and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) based telephony was pretty flaky. VoIP soon gathered a bad reputation amongst the early pioneers such that you would hear “oh yes, VoIP, the business down the road had that put in but it was rubbish and they had to take it back out again, I’m not touching it”.
I remember the unreliable early days of mobile telephony and my first analogue mobile phone. It’s often the same whenever any new service or product comes out, the early pioneers take the hits.
The Good News
Hosted Telephony over the internet has come of age.
The good news is that VoIP based Hosted Telephony is so much better now. Services are reliable, quality is high, systems are flexible and it’s simple to set up. So much so that most providers can send you pre-configured phones that you can plug into your network like any other device and they will just work out of the box. Some networks need a few adjustments but most don’t.
With emerging high definition audio the quality of calls is becoming much better than anything we have used before.
In some countries this type of telephony is set to be the dominant service in the near future. Take up in the UK is increasing with over 4 million subscribers in 2013 and it’s likely that this figure has exceeded 5 million by now. Much of the main BT trunking of UK calls is now over internet services so it doesn’t make a great deal of difference any more whether you use traditional telephone lines or not.
But I Still Don’t Quite Get It, What Actually Is Hosted Telephony Over The Internet?
To explain more clearly …
Up to the last few years most businesses would go out and buy a phone system which they would install in their premises and attach phone lines and phone extensions to. A business would then have to maintain the system or more likely pay a telecommunications company to do it. When they wanted to change something they often had to get an engineer to do it. Capital expenditure was relatively high and they would have to get a new system every so many years as technology moved on and as manufactures stop supporting older systems. This cycle would usually run over 5 to 10 years.
Most domestic users wouldn’t dream of owning a phone system. Instead they would usually have a phone line and phone that lets them access some of the services you get on a phone system such as voice mail or call redirection.
Hosted telephony is a phone system but one that is held in a computer server farm somewhere and maintained by the company that supplies the service to you. All you or your business needs to do is buy the appropriate phones with the service and that’s it. If a phone goes wrong you can just get another one, change a few settings and off you go, as if nothing happened. You can much more easily control the phone and your phone system account from a web browser or plug-in widget … from anywhere. It’s like many other apps we use these days. Maybe this sounds too simple but that’s how it is nowadays and it works!
Here Are 10 Reasons Why I Like It So Much!
1 – Low Capital Investment
Cost is a big bottom line for many. There’s very little equipment needed for IP based Hosted Telephony. You need the phones, a decent broadband supply and a switch, preferably a POE switch (one that can supply power to the phones).
Typically, at the time of writing:
- £100 – 8 Port POE switch or £300 – 24 port POE switch (Power Over Ethernet – supplies power and data to the phone)
- £80 – A budget display IP phone
So let’s say you wanted an 8 phone system, that would need just the 8 phones and an 8 port POE switch which will probably cost in the region of £740 including tax for the hardware. A traditional phone system might cost twice as much or even more once it’s all installed.
You can also use soft phones (use your computer to make calls) albeit they are not usually as good as a dedicated internet phone (IP phone).
Just because I don’t want to miss these things out; you can use conference phones and business or domestic class wireless phones with Hosted Telephony too!
Most suppliers will have a range of phones from one or more manufacturers that you can use depending on whether you want very simple phones all the way up to sophisticated colour display phones with touch screens.
2 – Scalable
This is one of the most flexible things about Hosted Telephony. Most Hosted Telephony systems are billed for monthly on a per subscriber basis so if you have 8 phone’s you pay 8 subscriptions. This is like having 8 traditional phone lines … in fact it’s like having more than 8 lines as you can put people on hold whilst you talk to another and hold 3 way conference calls so it’s more like having 16 phone lines available for when you need them.
Typically a subscription will cost between £6 and £10 depending on the provider and the features you want. For 8 phones you might be paying £56 a month. Here’s the but … with most providers you can change the number of subscriptions you have each month so if your business is 8 people this month, 12 people the next month and 6 the month after that you only have to pay for the number of subscriptions you use at those times. It’s true that you may need to buy the extra phones but at least you only need to pay for services as and when you need them.
In a similar way extra features like call recording and operator consoles can be added and taken away as needed.
3 – Mobility
For Hosted Telephony mobility can mean quite a few things …
If you are based in London, you have a 0208 number for example and you want to move to say Nottingham, no problem, just unplug the switch and the phones, take them to Nottingham, plug it all back in again and carry on. You will retain your 0208 number and in theory if your move was to Australia the same applies.
Got an office with some people working from home? Maybe you have an apartment in Spain? That’s no problem either, each can have their own phone or soft phone wherever they are and it’s still part of the same system. It’s worth mentioning that calls between phones on the same system are free, wherever they are.
Sometimes you are in the office, sometimes at home, sometimes at clients and sometimes in the car. Again no problem you can set Hosted Telephony to follow you by ringing each of your phones in turn until you answer or if you like all your phones can be rung at the same time.
Some systems might have a little app that goes on your mobile to make it part of the system. As an aside more mobile phones are becoming available that can make calls over the internet when available instead of the 2G mobile network.
Hosted telephony allows you to use numbers that are not in your area so if you are in London and want to have numbers for Bath and Brighton that’s no problem either. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing but it does mean that area based numbers are losing their meaning, much as the mobile phone network by default means area numbers don’t make any sense.
4 – Easy to Maintain And Great Support
If you have your own on premises phone system you often end up paying for support. Support for when you don’t understand something, when you need something changed and for when something goes wrong.
With Hosted telephony much of that support comes with the subscription. The thing that you may need help with from your IT support is if there are problems on your network or broadband supply. Having said that Hosted Telephony support will overlap with your IT support and if your Hosted telephony supplier is supplying your broadband then this area is covered.
Support will be able to help you with how to do things yourself and will be able to do them for you if needed.
5 – A Uniform Experience Everywhere
Let’s say you have a business with one main office and 10 branches. If you went down the traditional PBX route and you had opened the branches at different times you might have a variety of phone systems or maybe no phone system if the branch is very small. These systems might not talk to each at all or maybe partially. The different phone systems may work in different ways.
With hosted Telephony none of this matters, the system works the same everywhere, everyone can communicate with everyone else and it doesn’t matter if there is 1 person or 100 people at any particular location.
6 – Backup and Fail-over
Because the main system is hosted in secure duplicated environments everything is backed up for you from the system configuration to any recorded calls you might have. If the computer with your system on it fails then another takes over and you will notice little or no difference, chances are you won’t even know that anything happened.
But … what happens if your broadband goes down and some of your phones are disconnected from the system? That’s also not so much of a problem. Depending on how you want things to work there are several ways in which inbound calls can still get to you. You can redirect calls to another phone in another branch, your own phone or a colleague’s. If you already have calls following you or ringing your phones simultaneously then those phones will continue to ring.
7 – Control From Your PC
Most Hosted Telephony systems can be managed by yourself either at individual level or at system level. As a long time user of Hosted Telephony I have a tool bar that is installed on Outlook which controls much of my phone and which I find very convenient.
You can also control things by logging in from a web browser from anywhere, from menu items on your phone and through older style star codes e.g. *78 will activate Do Not Disturb mode.
From the web browser login you can get reports on the calls going in and out of your system:
You can control many things in the system easily from anywhere without needing an engineer and without having to know much about telephone systems or how they work. The phone system just becomes another piece of software for you to access.
8 – More Future Proof Than Many Other Solutions
From time to time the system will be upgraded to fix any bugs that might still be in the systems (there are always some bugs in every computer system), to improve existing features and add new ones. This will all be maintained for you. Systems could be quite different in 10 years but you don’t have to worry about it. The only hardware you might want to change is the phones and the switch but even those items can receive firmware and software updates so that they can go on doing their job for longer. Changing phones is a cost but at least any disruption is kept to a minimum and can be phased if necessary.
9 – Bolt-ons For When You Need Them
Depending on your business and how you run it you might want a few extra features such as call recording, call queueing, auto attendants, an operators console and maybe even a wall board for a call centre. You may need some of these only some of the time so again, you only need to pay for what you are using when you are using it.
10 – A Low Carbon Footprint
Last and not least, like many Cloud services you and your company will be doing your bit for the environment. The servers used with Hosted Telephony are usually high quality enterprise servers that use less energy than others and result in a reduced carbon footprint all round.
You will probably be using phones which will use some power but you won’t have a phone system control unit to run so will be using less electricity than you would if you had a more traditional system.
Each user takes around 90kbps internet bandwidth per call running over your existing network and possibly your existing broadband supply. Even if you need a dedicated broadband supply this utilises less infrastructure than multiple analogue or ISDN phone lines and therefore uses less energy.
So What’s Not To Like?
Well, there isn’t much not to like but there may be situations where having your own system might be better. With most Hosted Telephony business models you pay by subscription so if you have 50 users then that might cost £400 or so a month once you take the cost of broadband into account. On the other hand a traditional phone system with maintenance, phone line rental and depreciation might cost the same, perhaps more, perhaps less. It depends on convenience and how phone active your staff are.
If you have other systems that integrate with your phone system that perhaps Hosted Telephony cannot integrate with then you may need an appropriate phone system in-house. Maybe you just like to have control of your phone system and run your own in-house Hosted Telephony tailored more specifically to your business.
For many businesses Hosted Telephony is an excellent solution which overall may work out costing less when all the factors of running your own system are taken account.
Trying Out Hosted Telephony
Depending on your supplier you can try Hosted Telephony out. At the very least you can start with 1 or 2 phones to see how it all works. Some suppliers might lend you a trial phone and a subscription for a couple of weeks if they think you have a serious intent. A demonstration is easily possible.
If you would like to know more or just have a chat then fill out the form below and let’s start a dialogue, leave your number and we’ll call you or you can call 0844 893 2151.
There’s quite a buzz about Hosted Desktop Services (HDS) these days and for many businesses it makes a lot of sense. Maybe it doesn’t initially look so great for some IT support companies and departments but if embraced in the right way it can be a benefit for them as well.
HDS, sometimes referred to as cloud services or software as a service, is not really such a new idea. Before people started using PC’s as the mainstay device most computer systems had servers and intelligent workstations which we now call thin clients. Unix users will be very familiar with this concept.
Intelligent workstations like the thin clients of today had some memory and processor capacity but they mostly accessed software off of a server. Now that good broadband supplies are available the same type of system can be accessed over the internet. It has always been a good system!
In a nut shell a Hosted Desktop Service is “your PC” managed remotely and that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from any device without all the headaches of maintaining it or the loss of performance that you often get with Windows based PC’s.
Here are 10 reasons why it’s a good idea for many businesses!
1 – A Uniform Experience Everywhere On Everything
Putting software on a central server means everyone can access the same software from anywhere. No more worries about which versions, which licenses, upgrading versions etc. Many HDS services will give access to software using apps that will work on nearly any device such as Citrix which works on Windows, Android, Apple OS, Linux, Unix, phones, tablets and other popular platforms that I may have missed out. It will work on different versions of different operating systems too!
2 – Backups & Security All Looked After For You
Backup and security are a necessary pain. It can be a worry when considering HDS, after all, how good is the suppliers backup and security? The answer is that it has to be good! Some companies will undoubtedly be storing sensitive and valuable data so HDS suppliers need to make sure everything is backed up in real time or close to it, often across different server locations in different countries.
Security has to be really good because if anyone hacked into the HDS systems it would be trouble for customer and supplier alike. That goes for up-time too which needs to be 99.99% of the time!
Because the software and data is stored on the HDS servers if a device is stolen or lost it’s no problem especially with HDS sessions timing out.
Similarly antivirus and anti-malware services are all taken care of.
Backup, security and availability will be better than that which most companies have on their own systems.
3 – Speed
If you have used Windows based machines you will be familiar with the way that they can slow down over time. Maybe because there is too much software on a PC, because of a virus, perhaps the hard disc has faults, not enough memory or maybe the computer is just generally underpowered. This is not a problem with HDS where the servers are high quality, fast and maintained for you. The servers are doing all the work for you, all your device has to do is run the software that allows you to access the servers which doesn’t tax a device or use much internet bandwidth.
It’s like having a new PC everyday. People can work faster, be more productive and won’t have the frustration associated with slow computers.
Just as an example I tested loading up Microsoft Word and a few other Microsoft products and the load up times were between half a second and 2 seconds.
4 – Proactive Support
Another headache with maintaining software and hardware is keeping everything up to date, often across many devices. Most of that won’t apply with HDS as support staff are keeping everything up to date for their customers and monitoring systems for faults.
HDS users will still have queries and sometimes things may go wrong so it’s important that support is available during working hours and maybe even 24/7support. This is a level of support available with HDS as many companies are using it and some at all hours.
5 – Improved Cash Flow
HDS is a scalable subscription service where different people can use different software at different times. This gives flexibility that can be controlled. The cost can be fixed to be the same each month or it can be capped to how much a customer is willing to spend each month allowing flexibility without loss of control. There are few unexpected expenses to accommodate. HDS is an easy service to build into a company’s monthly and yearly budget.
6 – Mobility
Because it works anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection and on almost any device it can be used in London, Sydney, Delhi or perhaps even in space (one day). No special connections are needed. If a company moves office it doesn’t matter, if someone has to work at home it doesn’t matter. Use a PC, tablet, laptop or even a phone!
People can use their own hardware or simple thin clients* with any suitable screen.
*A thin client is a small box used to connect everything together such as a screen, a keyboard and a mouse. It can be simply configured to access an HDS service. Thin clients often have a built in card reader, sockets for USB devices, headphones etc. They rarely have any discs in them and don’t need heavy duty processing power. Typically they are around 8 inches square and 2 inches deep. They use much less power than a PC too so cost less to run.
7 – Less Hardware And Software Worries
A company running its own system might have a list of IT concerns that go something like this:
- Hardware to maintain and replace
- Software to maintain, upgrade, fix, replace
- Provisioning of new hardware and software
- Software version control
- Operating system support; possibly across different versions or even different OS types.
- System availability
- IT support, in house or contracted out
- And more …..
At the time of writing Windows XP has recently been phased out of Microsoft’s support regime but lots of companies still have it and have the headache of what to do next as they can’t stay with XP forever. This is not an issue with hosted desktop services as it’s all kept up to date on an ongoing basis.
Most of the hardware and software that had to be looked after before is no longer a concern with HDS.
With HDS there is often a core set of software that everyone gets such as Microsoft office, Chrome, Adobe Reader etc. Other optional paid for or free standard software can be chosen from. Other off the shelf or bespoke software can be requested and put onto the system for selection or as part of a customer’s standard HDS setup.
The purchase and use of software by people or groups of people can be controlled by an approval system so that a company has control over what they are paying for.
The data for software used can be retained even if not used or paid for all of the time.
With HDS people can’t just download software as they like. Miscellaneous software can come with viruses or malware or compromise the working environment. This is another built in method of controlling the integrity of company IT systems.
8 – More Time For Your Business
Depending on how much IT infrastructure a company has and how it uses it, a significant amount of time might be spent planning and implementing IT strategies. In turn a company may have to spend time communicating with their IT support department or provider. Some of this time will be concerned with day to day IT matters such as security, backup, housekeeping etc. If much of this is offloaded onto HDS either the IT support function can be reduced or diverted to other important company IT projects.
Using Hosted Desktop Services can result in more time spent on a company’s core business and less on IT leading to savings and increased productivity.
9 – Integrate With Your Own Special Systems
A company might have some software and data that they want moved to the HDS servers and for most software this can be done. It’s sometimes referred to as on-boarding. There may be one-time costs for this but once it’s done that company won’t have to worry about looking after it again.
A company might have some systems that just aren’t suitable for HDS for example; a film company might have editing suites with specialized hardware and software that maybe 25% of the company use. Systems like these can be kept as they are and HDS still used in conjunction with those systems where required. Where needed data can be shared, synchronised and local data can be accessed directly from HDS!
10 – A Low Carbon Footprint
Last and not least you and your company will be doing your bit for the environment. The servers used with HDS are usually high quality enterprise servers that use less energy than others and a reduced carbon footprint all round.
If you and your company are using thin clients you will be using less energy at the office end which reduces your own carbon footprint and means you will make some savings too.
Each user takes 100k to 200k of internet bandwidth per session which could be less than what is used normally. Less internet capacity may be needed and may be reduced or utilised elsewhere.
A Special Microsoft Office 365 Note
Microsoft Office 365 is not a hosted desktop service, you still need a company hardware infrastructure. HDS gives you the benefits of Microsoft Office with far more flexibility and without all the maintenance.
Trying Out HDS
Did you find this of interest for your company? The best way to find out is to try it out.
Would you like to trial it for for 14 days from us or a demonstration? Would you like to just have a chat about it?
Fill out the form below and let’s start a dialogue.
Leave us your number and we’ll call you or call 0844 893 2151.
HDS on on www.iwantrouters.com/hosted.
Contact us however is best for you and we’ll accommodate you. Don’t worry we won’t be chasing you like crazy or sending you a torrent of marketing material without your permission.
My business relies on the internet; my phone is an IP phone, it uses the internet. If the internet goes down so does most of my business until it comes back up in maybe hours or days. It doesn’t stop there though because even my TV uses the internet these days and then there’s all those cloud services which means some of my data may not be on any of my computers. I’m running a cable internet connection and it’s pretty fast especially when it comes to downloads. The faster the broadband the more we can do with it and the more we rely on it. And … it doesn’t even stop there either! Laptops, mobile phones, tablets, TV’s, set top boxes, NAS drives, stereo systems, cameras etc. use wireless so wireless is really important too.
If you are running an internet reliant business or would really miss your internet connection at home you won’t want it to go down ever! Well, maybe when you are on holiday … uh oh, got a remote security camera linked to your phone through the internet or some other device, maybe a remote internet linked pet feeder or something.
I think most of us want reliable all the 9’s uptime for our internet but of course that’s not always easy to achieve. Making it 100% reliable I cannot promise in fact even all the 9’s is not that easy but I can probably show you how to make your internet faster, have a higher capacity, make it more reliable and improve your wireless WITHOUT SPENDING A SMALL FORTUNE!
A Common Problem
Most homes and small businesses have one internet connection, one line and one router that functions as a router a switch and a wireless access point … true? If any of those elements go down then so might your internet access. You could go ask the neighbour if you could sling a wire through to your business from their supply or ask for their wireless password and maybe sometimes this is ok, it’s a temporary solution of a sort. If you want to be self reliant though you’ll need another solution.
What happens if …
Your router fails
Simple, go get another router, configure it up (hope you know where your broadband login details are) or better still, have another router on standby, just in case! From my experience most people or businesses don’t have a spare. Your current router might be a bit special but anything will do to get you back up and running if a direct replacement is not to hand.
Your internet connection fails
Could be your ISP, a fault on the line or a JCB digging outside. Either way it’s down to the service level agreements of your provider. You’ll probably be down for a few hours, maybe a few days and if you are really unlucky, a few weeks, it happens, especially if the road needs digging up.
Wireless has come a long way but it’s still a flaky service. It depends on lots of things, how many people are already connected, what’s in your building, atmospheric conditions, the type of wireless network you have and the capabilities of the devices you are trying to connect to it etc.
It’s also not so great when you have more than one wireless access point but your device stays connected to the access point you were near 2 minutes ago and which is now nearly out of range. You could be standing next to another access point on the same network but still not connect to it unless you manually do so.
Does all or some of this sound familiar?
There are very fast internet connections with high up-times and excellent service level agreements that mean if your internet connection does go down it gets fixed quickly but of course that can cost a lot of money and a JCB going through the cable is probably going to scupper even that plan for a while. There’s WiMax, line of site links and even satellite connections but, well, it’s a bit expensive and maybe a bit over the top for many.
My suggested solution below is not new but it has improved over time and costs less than it used to. I’m a fan and distributor of Draytek network devices so I’m going to use and suggest Draytek in my solution but you can use other brands solutions too it’s just that I know Draytek works well, is generally of a good quality, has a high specification etc. Lot’s of businesses and computer support companies use them so I guess that’s an endorsement in itself.
More than one
Broadband is pretty cheap so how about 2 supplies over different networks so that if it’s the ISP or just one line that fails then the other is likely to continue to work. Just to make it belt and braces how about feeding in a mobile broadband supply just in case that clumsy JCB comes our way and cuts all the cables to your premises (don’t laugh, this happened to one company I worked for).
In this case you would have 2 broadband feeds going into the same router which would balance all your internet traffic using the 2 services giving you more speed and capacity. If one broadband service fails then the other carries on until the failed service comes back up. If both services fail then the mobile broadband cuts in.
The mobile broadband does depend on the mobile signal you can get where your router is located and whether it’s 3G or 4G but at least it will let you access the internet. If it’s 4G this could be pretty good! You will need to watch your mobile broadband use depending on the tariff you are using but at least you are still up and running.
What if the router fails? Well of course this can happen so for the cost of it I would keep a second router as a backup. You can backup the configuration of the router in use and load it onto the second router. You can backup the configuration each time you change it and either load it onto the second router or at least have it ready. With some Draytek devices, this one included there is 3 year extended warranty available where they will replace your failed device the next working day with no quibbling. You could even use the second router as a second modem if you configure it correctly but that’s a subject for another day.
Improving Wireless Connectivity
Wireless or WiFi has improved over time. The range is greater, it’s more reliable and easier to connect up to than it used to be but it’s still a variable and sometimes quirky technology. If you need a consistent service over a defined area then you’ll probably need to over do it with wireless coverage.
Many routers are not just routers, they are routers, switches, modems and wireless access points. The wireless part of your main router will provide all you need in a small space but as an operating space gets bigger you will need further wireless access points to cover the area. Wireless access points can be obtained for both indoor and outdoor environments and can work well in a campus type environment.
There are two main variants which we can call push and pull systems. To use a couple of techy terms, the wireless system is called the server and your mobile phone, laptop tablet or other wireless device the client.
Most domestic or small office wireless systems are pull systems which means you manually connect your client device to a wireless server. For example, an office or house has 2 access points, one is a wireless router downstairs and the other is a wireless access point upstairs. When your client device is connected to the downstairs router (a server) it stays connected to it until it goes out of range so if you walk upstairs you may need to manually disconnect from the downstairs router and connect to the upstairs wireless access point. It works but it’s clunky and moving smoothly from one wireless zone to another does not occur. Both wireless access points are part of the same system but the connection to them isn’t managed automatically. You could say that you have to pull connections.
Using the same scenario now the wireless system is being managed and pushing connections. The effect is that when you walk up the stairs the wireless management software built into the system monitors it’s connections and as the signal from one wireless access point becomes weaker and another stronger it pushes connection to the stronger wireless access point to your client device such as your phone.
Another great thing about managed wireless is that it will share the load so if several devices are in range of more than one access point those access points can be made to share the wireless traffic instead of one being overloaded and the other hardly used.
Now you can walk up and down stairs with your client device and stay connected without having to think about it. Where two or more access points are located to manage a lot of wireless traffic they can look after the traffic loads so the user gets a good solid wireless service throughout the operating area.
Managed wireless used to be expensive but it’s not now. It does cost more than pull wireless but not much more and is well within credible cost for domestic or small business users. If you need it it’s well worth the modest extra cost.
If you wanted to set up managed wireless using Draytek components you would need either a Draytek Vigor 2860 or a 2925 series router to act as the controller and either a Draytek Vigor AP810 or AP900 wireless access point.
Here is my suggestion for a robust broadband set-up with managed wireless for around £525+VAT for the equipment. All the prices are relevant at the time writing so whilst prices and devices may have changed by the time you read this I am sure this kind of system will be around for a good while yet!
You will also need 2 broadband supplies which can be a mixture of ADSL max, ADSL2+, Fibre known as FTTC or some other suitable broadband/Ethernet supply. You can use Virgin cable broadband. 2 lines carrying BT like broadband will give you 2 lines of voice as well. The cost of installation of the lines and broadband might come to somewhere between £200 and £250 + VAT. Monthly rental for the 2 lines and broadband might be around £60 to £90 + VAT depending on what you have.
- All equipment and line installations maybe ~£775 + VAT
- Ongoing monthly rental, maybe ~£75 + VAT
|Draytek Vigor 2860n ADSL Router||£180.32 + VAT||The most popular business class router from Draytek. It acts as a controller for the managed wireless as well as managing dual broadband connection with a third mobile broadband connection.You could get 2 of these, 1 to use and 1 as backup.|
|Draytek Vigor AP900 Wireless Access Point||£113.85 + VAT||Currently the top of the range wireless access point from Draytek. Lots of speed, power and flexibility.If the wireless range from your w860n router is not enough then get at least one of these.|
|Draytek Vigor 120 Modem||£41.80 + VAT||You may or not need one of these depending on the broadband you have. This can used to feed a second broadband supply to the 2860n router such as ADSL2+. It cannot be used with fibre broadband. Alternatively you could use the backup 2860n as a second feed if configured correctly but you will lose the second feed if the main 2860n goes down and you have to use the backup instead.|
|Draytek ADSL Tailed Microfilter||£5 + VAT||These split your voice and broadband elements into 2 so you can access broadband and make phone calls at the same time.You could get 2 of these, 1 to use and one as backup.|
|Draytek Vigor AP810 Wireless Access Point||£82.80 + VAT||You can use these instead of AP900’s. It’s not quite as fully featured as the AP900 but if you don’t need those features it will work perfectly well with managed wireless.|
|Draytek VigorCare Enhanced Warranty Subscription B||£36.40 + VAT||For Draytek Vigor 2860 series routers. These extended warranties are worth having. They don’t cost much and they will get you a new device the next day. See below for more information*|
|Draytek VigorCare Enhanced Warranty Subscription A||£24.70 + VAT||For Draytek Vigor 120 modem’s and AP900 or AP810 wireless access points. These extended warranties are worth having. They don’t cost much and they will get you a new device the next day. See below for more information*|
*Draytek VigoreCare Extended Warranty Main Features
- One per device.
- Upgrade of warranty to 3-years
- Advanced-Replacement of faulty unit the next working day subject to delivery destination
- Cover for the whole 3-years for one payment
- Available on all DrayTek routers
- Available within 30 days of router purchase
Over the last few months from the 5th September 2012 until the 5th April 2013 I tweeted 100 snippet’s of information about networking, routers, broadband etc. I also published them as updates in LinkedIn and most in eCademy/Sunzu. I hope some people found them useful. I have preserved them here in case anyone would like to dip into them.
The objective was to explain bits of tech in small digestible chunks that were hopefully fairly easy to understand.
05/09/12 – Snippet 1-SSID stands for “Service Set IDentifier”, a name that will easily identify your wireless network, for example “Smith Family WiFi”.
06/09/12 – Snippet 2-Mode: Wireless standard, IEEE 802.11n is latest, older devices may use 11b or 11g. Set your router for 3 most popular; 11b,11g&11n.
07/09/12 – Snippet 3-Wi Fi uses several frequencies , in most cases leave on auto select. If you get interference select a frequency, see if it helps.
10/09/12 – Snippet 4- If you have a wireless device that uses the 802.11b standard you may need to set “Long Pre-amble” to on in your general settings.
11/09/12 – Snippet 5- Mixed “(WPA+WPA2)/PSK” is the better wireless security setting but if you have older wireless devices some will only use WEP.
12/09/12 – Snippet 6-Password protect your WiFi network at least but did u know u can restrict devices that can connect or exclude those that can’t?
13/09/12 – Snippet 7-Did you know you can use a Wireless Access Point to extend the range of your WiFi? http://clixtrac.com/goto/?91551
14/09/12 – Snippet 8-2 wireless Access Points in a router or stand alone can be used to bridge a virtual cable between each other. http://clixtrac.com/goto/?91551
15/09/12 – Snippet 9-Did u know that on some routers you can control which data gets priority so for example voice and video can run more smoothly?
17/09/12 – Snippet 10-Did you know you can get more powerful aerials for your wireless Routers and Access Points. http://clixtrac.com/goto/?91949
18/09/12 – Snippet 11- You are a small business that needs up to 30 phone extensions but the phone system quote seems too much? – http://clixtrac.com/goto/?92122
19/09/12 – Snippet 12-Good broadband supply depends on exchange distance, cable quality, SNR, Attenuation, Latency, Jitter, Packet loss, more later…
20/09/12 – Snippet 13-SNR-Signal to Noise Ratio, can be adjusted if line is noisy, check router status. 6db is good, range 3db-15db, lower is better.
21/09/12 – Snippet 14-Attenuation, measured in decibels, the quality of ADSL signal. 10db is good, 30db ok, 60db acceptable, more than 60db not good.
24/09/12 – Snippet 15- Latency=delay affects speed. Round trip of data in milliseconds=MS 30ms=great, 50=good, 80=ok, 100+=not good, 200+=talk to ISP.
25/09/12 – Snippet 16-Jitter, how much broadband latency (delay) varies, 30ms to 60=ok, 50 to 80=not bad, 100 to 200=not good.
26/09/12 – Snippet 17-Last BB variable-Packet loss=data loss, packets lost are resent=slow BB. <1%=good, 1%-2.5%=ok, 2.5% to 5%=bad, > 5%=talk to ISP
27/09/12 – Snippet 18-If you want to know what broadband is available to you – http://clixtrac.com/goto/?93445, the telecoms industry uses this!
28/09/12 – Snippet 19-A VPN=Virtual Private Network is your own private road from one computer (or device) to another over the internet.
29/09/12 – Blatant Ad-SIP lines £3.50 month, 1ppm UK Nat/Loc , 5ppm UK mobile, per second billing, no minimum or connection charges http://dld.bz/bNE28
01/10/12 – Snippet 20-PRT Ordering files by date works well like this “YYYY-MM-DD Description 01.xxx”.
02/10/12 – Snippet 21-A modem connects to broadband, a router converts broadband to Ethernet, a switch routes Ethernet to various computers/devices.
03/10/12 – PRT – Cracking Draytek High end dual WAN router with £50 cash back only up to the 19th October -http://clixtrac.com/goto/?94173
05/10/12 – Snippet 22-What do all those weird acronyms mean when I try to configure the broadband on my router? – http://clixtrac.com/goto/?94491
06/12/12 – Snippet 23-Type “ip address” in Google and it will tell you what your current public IP address is, try it!
08/10/12 – Snippet 24-Watch out what you sign up for, avoid the unscrupulous baddies http://clixtrac.com/goto/?94736
09/10/12 – Snippet 25- DNS means “Domain Name System”, it translates a web address to an IP address. It’s made up of many servers in many places.
10/10/12 – Snippet 26-PRT MAC stands for Media Access Control. Every network device has a MAC, phones, computers, tablets. It uniquely identifies a device.
11/10/12 – Snippet 27-DHCP=Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, the system that hands out IP addresses to devices that connect to your network.
12/10/12 – Snippet 28-Static IP address, supplied by your ISP to your router and is always the same, if not static, could change each time you connect.
13/10/12 – Snippet 29-A “Packet” is a unit of data, it can be different sizes and there can be packets within packets, it contains info on what’s in the packet.
14/10/12 – Snippet 30-FTTC=Fibre To The Curb, the latest broadband giving up to 76mbs download and 19mb upload where available.
17/10/12 – Snippet 31-An iPlate, a new cover plate for older phone sockets, it isolates the bell wire which can interfere with broadband.
18/10/12 – Snippet 32-POE=Power Over Ethernet. Power is supplied to a device such as an IP phone from a POE switch instead of using a mains power unit.
19/10/12 – How do I choose the right broadband for me? http://clixtrac.com/goto/?96026
19/10/12 – Snippet 33-QOS=Quality Of Service, give priority to selected data traffic e.g. voice needs to get around fast for a real time conversation!
20/10/12 – Snippet 34-EFM=Ethernet First Mile, 2/4 ADSL supplies bonded together to give much better internet connectivity from exchange to premises.
23/10/12 – Snippet 35-VoIP=Voice over Internet Protocol, phone calls over internet & works well these days, costs less, does more! http://dld.bz/bQvXm
31/10/12 – What would combining 4 x broadband supplies into one do for your business or organisation? http://clixtrac.com/goto/?97233
31/10/12 – Snippet 36-DoS/DDoS=Denial Of Service, example; someone attacks a server with a flood of data so you can’t access a web site hosted there.
01/11/12 – Snippet 37-WLAN Bridging is a method of beaming a wireless link from one location to another as if it was a network cable.
02/11/12 – Snippet 38-Annex M is a high specification ADSL2+ broadband giving up to 16mbs or 24mbs download and 2.5mbs upload speeds.
03/11/12 – Snippet 39-SMTP=Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, simply the protocol / standard for sending email around. Email to SMTP, receive from POP.
04/11/12 – Snippet 40-POP3=Post Office Protocol and is simply the standard / protocol for receiving you email. Email to SMTP, receive from POP.
07/11/12 – Snippet 41-LLU=Local Loop Unbundled, this is where a supplier such as Orange or TalTalk have their own equipment in a BT exchange.
09/11/12 – Snippet 42-SIP=Session Initiation Protocol. This is the open standard used most frequently to make phone calls over the internet.
10/11/12 – Really excellent value for money IP PBX’s (phone systems) http://clixtrac.com/goto/?98331
15/11/12 – Snippet 43-A Dongle-Small device which plugs into computer via USB/other connection, offers a service e.g. WiFi, 3G broadband security etc.
16/11/12 – Snippet 44-Network Adaptor or Home Plug. A plug that allows you to run your local network over the mains, sometimes with built in wireless.
05/12/12 – Snippet 45-The Cloud-A secure place on the internet somewhere to store things so that they can be accessed from anywhere.
07/12/12 – Snippet 46-Unmanaged switch-Simple switch that allows you to distribute to between 4 and 48 network devices from each switch.
08/12/12 – Snippet 47-Managed switch-Configurable sophisticated switch that allows you to distribute to between 4 and 48 network devices from each switch.
10/12/12 – Snippet 48-WD-WRT A Unix based Open Source standard firmware for routers – http://www.dd-wrt.com/site/index
14/12/12 – Snippet 49-Homeplug Mains network adaptor – used to connect network devices over mains electric circuits, some have wireless access points
17/12/12 – Snippet 50-I want to setup a wireless network part 2! – https://iwantrouters.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/i-want-to-setup-a-wireless-network-part-2/
18/12/12 – Snippet 51-ATA=Analogue Terminal Adaptor, device for using analogue devices (a phone) with local or external IP services, IP PBX’s or SIP
20/12/12 – Snippet 52-SSL=Secure Socket Layer, a secure encrypted method of sending information over the internet. See also Snippet 53-TLS.
20/12/12 – Snippet 53-TLS=Transport Layer Security, newer secure encrypted method of sending information over the internet, replaces SSL see Snippet 52
21/12/12 – Snippet 54-Popular voice over internet quality levels G729=low, G711=high, G722=Wideband or HD. Set to G711 for best compromise.
24/12/12 – Faster, more reliable, inexpensive connectivity for business or where internet connectivity is vital – http://clixtrac.com/goto/?93428
27/12/12 – Snippet 55-Data Encryption–transmit data in a form that cannot be understood if intercepted. Various levels of security can be implemented.
28/12/12 – Snippet 56-PBX, Private Branch Exchange. A phone system, used by businesses etc. You can get Analogue/digital/IP PBX’s.
02/01/13 – Snippet 57-PPPOA=Point to Point Protocol over ATM, a protocol used to validate and keep alive your internet connection to your ISP.
06/01/13 – Snippet 58-A/DSL Microfilter-a small box or socket that separates the voice and broadband (DSL) elements on a single analogue phone line.
07/01/13 – Snippet 59-Gigabit Vs 10/100-Gigabit is 10 times faster than 100mbs and 100mbs is 10 times faster than 10mbs networks. Gigabit is the latest
07/01/13 – Learn about broadband, routers, networking, wireless networking etc with the jargon explained – http://clixtrac.com/goto/?104372
17/01/13 – Snippet 60-IP Phones work globally if there is a reasonable connection. Take your IP phone from UK to Australia, it will work, same number!
21/01/13 – Snippet 61-AP=Access Point usually re Wireless. Part of a router or a separate box, transmitter / receiver 4 wireless devices to attach to.
22/01/13 – Snippet 62-WCF=Web Content Filtering, flexible access control to websites and website types, parental control, time based restrictions.
04/02/13 – Snippet 63-Decibal (Db) is the unit of measurement for wireless (WiFi) signal strength, 2Db is low, 12Db is high.
06/02/13 – Snippet 64-BLF=Busy Lamp Field, telecom term, when lit, shows when other phones are in use = when other people are currently on the phone.
10/02/13 – Snippet 65-U=the height a computer related device takes up in a 19” or 23”rack. 1u=44.45mm/1.75” high.
11/02/13 – Snippet 66-SNMP=Simple Network Management Protocol, used for administrating, configuring and monitoring computer networks http://www.net-snmp.org
13/02/13 – Snippet 67-OSI 7 Layer model. How computers & other devices communicate on local networks & the internet. See next 7 snippets for each layer
14/02/13 – Snippet 68-OSI 7 Layer model, layer 1 is the physical layer, wires/cables, the, connectors, plugs, wireless signal, electricity etc.
15/02/13 – Snippet 69-OSI 7 Layer model, layer 2 is the basic high speed transmission of data from point to point regardless of the meaning of the data.
18/02/13 – Snippet 70-OSI 7 Layer model, layer 3 is concerned with the size, routing & integrity of data, making sure data arrives safely.
19/02/13 – Snippet 71-OSI 7 Layer model, layer 4 data is transported to the upper layers as reliably as possible so that SW can use it effectively
20/02/13 – Snippet 72-OSI 7 Layer model, layer 5 establishes and terminates connections locally and remotely between applications
21/02/13 – Snippet 73-OSI 7 Layer model, layer 6 makes sure data is presented to applications in the form they understand
22/02/13 – Snippet 74-OSI 7 Layer model, layer 7 is the applications handling of network data and their internal processes.
23/02/13 – Snippet 75-OSI 7 Layer model names, 1-Physical, 2-Data Link, 3-Network, 4-Transport, 5-Session, 6-Presentatio, 7-Application.
24/02/13 – Snippet 76-Load Balancing is a way of connecting 2 or more broadband supplies to a single router so that they act as 1 broadband supply.
27/02/13 – Snippet 77-Omni directional-When a radio signal radiates out in all directions, 360 degrees
28/02/13 – Snippet 78-Unidirectional-When a radio signal is focused into a cone radiating out 70 degrees for example.
01/03/13 – Snippet 79-HTTP=HyperText Transfer Protocol, tells network programs that web pages are being worked with and how to handle them.
02/03/13 – Snippet 80-HTTPS-The same as HTTP but a secure version using SSL/TLS which is a system for encrypting data. On web pages in this context.
04/03/13 – Snippet 81-A basic byte is made up of 8 bits, a bit is a 0 or a 1. The smallest value is on the right 00000001=1, 00000010=2, 00000011=3 etc
05/03/13 – Snippet 82-CAT 5/6 or Category 5 or 6 networking cables have 8 wires in them and are used in home, office and national networks such as BT.
06/03/13 – Snippet 83-RJ45, a common type of 8 pin plug used for CAT 5/6 cabling. It is fairly square in design with a clip to secure the connection.
07/03/13 – Snippet 84-RJ11, a common type of 6 pin (4 or 6 pins are active) plug used for phone, modem connections etc. similar but smaller than RJ45.
08/03/13 – Snippet 85-Plug connections. You have an RJ11 plug with 6 pins, 4 or 6 pins might be connected e.g. 6PC4 = 6 pins but only 4 connected.
11/03/13 – Snippet 86-UK BT plugs fit an NTE5 socket. 2 types now 431A and 631A, P6C4 & P6C6 respectively, an oddity as the RJ11 would be more standard.
12/03/13 – Snippet 87-USB=Universal Serial BUS. 6 types of plug, used for phones, computers, printers, mice, nearly everything – http://dld.bz/cpKxg
13/03/13 – Snippet 88-Buffer, memory reserved as a capacitor. Like a bucket of water that is always topped up so that it never runs out.
15/03/13 – Snippet 89-NAS-Network Attached Storage-Box with 1 or more hard discs in it & enough circuitry and software to share data across a network.
18/03/13 – Snippet 90-BUS-Name of the internal connection architecture of all the components in a computer. E.g. so a hard drive can talk to a CPU etc.
19/03/13 – Snippet 91-SATA=Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, a type of bus designed for mass storage devices like hard disks.
20/03/13 – Snippet 92-DMZ, derived from “DeMilitarized Zone”. A kind of neutral sub network zone used to protect more sensitive network areas.
21/03/13 – Snippet 93-TCP/IP=Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, this protocol streams raw octal data around the internet reliably.
23/03/13 – Snippet 94-Hidden SSID=“Hidden Service Set IDentifier”. Your wireless network cannot be seen publicly you have to know the name of it.
25/03/13 – Snippet 95-“Failover”, term used to describe switching from one service or device to an alternative where available if the current one fails
29/03/13 – Snippet 96-4G=4th Generation, a new standard of mobile broadband. 2 types, WiMax & LTE (Long Term Evolution). Unclear how good it will be.
02/04/13 – Snippet 97-EWAN=Ethernet Wide Area Networks. Remote connections functioning at Ethernet level as if plugging in a LAN cable
03/04/13 – Snippet 98-Hosted Telephony. A phone system hosted remotely by a provider, you access it & make calls over broadband. You just have phones.
04/04/13 – Snippet 99-GUI=Graphical User Interface. Outmoded term, nearly all our interactions with programs are GUI now. Alternative to command line.
05/04/13 – Snippet 100-The internet-Every computer, mobile, device attached to the internet is part of it and is it. It is the sum of its parts.
So now you have the equipment you need to set up your wireless network. It needs to be configured but manuals being manuals, are not always that easy to follow. I’ll assume the instructions on how to plug things together are fairly straight forward. As this article is from a fairly generic point of view I will talk about the typical lights and sockets on a router and then I will carry on with how to configure your wireless. I will use Draytek equipment in my examples as they cover a lot of ground but the same applies to any router even if the terms and conventions are a little different. I know that some of you would rather do anything else than configure your router in any way. I know how you feel; I feel the same about balance sheets. For whatever reason you are configuring your wireless network, expert or amateur, I will try to make this easy to understand. If there is anything that could be made clearer or could be improved let me know and I’ll do my best. Some routers have configuration wizards that will guide you through the initial setup processes and will get you going but are not generally much help beyond that. We will start off with configuring the wireless Access Point, in our example the Access Point built into a router.
Router – The lights
This routers status panel has more lights on it than most other makes of routers and the layout is compact so it should cover the majority of lights you are likely to come across. Some routers will have other lights or will name them differently. They could be laid out in a different way.
The router is off.
The router is on and working normally.
USB (not all routers have this)
A working USB device is plugged in.
Data is moving between the USB device and the router.
WAN2 (2nd Wide Area Network , most routers do not have this)
A working WAN connection is plugged in.
A working WAN connection is not plugged in.
The connection is active and data is moving about.
WCF (Web Content Filtering, a Draytek specific feature, not shown in this example)
This subscription service is enabled.
WLAN (Wireless LAN, if you have it)
Wireless is active.
This will blink slowly while wireless traffic goes through.
The ACT and WLAN LEDs blink quickly and simultaneously when WPS (see “Buttons” below) is working, it will return to normal condition after two minutes. (You need to setup WPS within two minutes.)
Your ADSL is synchronised with your ISP (Internet Service Provider). This should stay solid once it’s connected successfully.
Whilst the router is trying to connect with your ISP this should blink slowly. It may pause and then blink again as it tries different methods to connect. It could take a few minutes to connect.
VDSL (the newer FTTC or Fibre To The Cabinet service, BT call theirs Infinity)
Your ADSL is synchronised with your ISP (Internet Service Provider). This should stay solid once it’s connected successfully.
Whilst the router is trying to connect with your ISP this should blink slowly. It may pause and then blink again as it tries different methods to connect. It could take a few minutes to connect.
DoS*1 (not all routers have this)
The DoS/DDoS functionality is enabled.
An attack is in progress.
VPN*2 (Virtual Private Network)
At least one VPN tunnel is active
QoS (Quality Of Service)
QoS is active and giving priority to data traffic that has to have priority, for example voice traffic cannot be delayed for it to be effective.
*1 – DoS stands for Denial Of Service and DDoS stands for Distributed Denial Of Service. This is a malicious attack by someone trying to flood your router with duplicated data. This is sometimes aimed at bringing down web sites or a service. If you continuously flood an inbound internet connection with data then it is difficult for anyone else to get a look in. The router cannot stop the attack but can stop malicious data from getting any further and let you know that it’s happening.
*2 – A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides a tunnel between your home computer and your work computer for example. It is a more direct, faster and secure route between the 2 devices. Not all routers can support this and only some routers fully support it. This model fully supports multiple VPN’s.
Router – The sockets
Sockets may be named differently, there may be more or less and they may be in different places on different routers.
GigaLAN – sockets 1 to 3 (gigabit speeds)
Left green LED
There is an active connection.
No active connection.
Data is being transmitted.
Right green LED
It is a gigabit (1,000gbs) connection.
It is a 10mbs or 100mbs connection.
GigaLAN – socket 4 – Either a 4th LAN socket or the second WAN
Left green LED
There is an active connection.
No active connection.
Data is being transmitted.
Right green LED
It is a gigabit (1,000gbs) connection.
It is a 10mbs or 100mbs connection.
Plug in your ADSL/VDSL connection.
For your USB lead or device.
The socket for your power adapter and the on off switch.
Router – The buttons
Buttons may be named differently, there may be more or less and they may be in different places on different routers.The “Wireless LAN ON/OFF/WPS” button has dual use in this example. If you press it twice it will toggle the wireless between off and on. WPS stands for “WiFi Protected Setup” and works a little like pairing a mobile phone with a Bluetooth headset. It only works WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK security (there are several levels of wireless security and this will be discussed later on). If you press the WPS button once the ACT and WLAN LED’s will start blinking together for 2 minutes within which time you need to press the button on the connecting device or follow the procedure for that device as instructed. On this router example there is a factory reset button. If you press this and hold it down for 10 seconds (the number of seconds needed will vary between routers) your router will go back to the state it was in when you first opened the box. If the router you have is capable of backing up its configuration then take a backup every now and then so that if you do have to reset it you won’t have to start from scratch. This button is usually just inside the router so you will need something like a paper clip to put in the hole to operate it.
Router – Wireless Configuration
Ok, let’s go, let’s start easy …
Here’s an example setup screen from a Draytek Vigor 2850n. This one can handle up to four Wireless LAN’s so there are more options than you will see on most routers.
Most routers, especially if you set them up with a basic setup wizard will default the wireless to on. Tick the enable box if it’s not already ticked.
Wireless technology does not stand still, people are improving it all the time which means that there are several standards of wireless. The latest is IEEE 802.11n (IEEE stands for “Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers”) which unless you are techy doesn’t mean much but “Wireless N” you may have heard of. Older wireless standards are 11g, 11b and 11a. If you have older devices then they may not work with just 11n (Wireless N) so it’s best to set the mode to use all three as needed, 11b, 11g and 11n which are the most popular standards. Like this:
Index (1 to 15)
This one is another feature that you may not see on other routers but I will cover it anyway. You can set the wireless LAN to only be accessible at certain times. You can enter up to four schedules out of a choice of 16. Click the “Schedule” text link which will take you here:
Then click one of the index numbers to take you here:
I think the date, time and duration is fairly straight forward but I will explain the technical settings.
Enable Schedule Setup
Switch it on or off, enable or disable.
This allows you to specify how the wireless should behave and whether it should be on or off for a particular schedule.
- Force On – Force the wireless connection to be on.
- Force Down – Force the wireless connection to be off.
- Enable Dial-On-Demand – Specify that the connection should sleep unless required, the value of idle timeout should be set in Idle Timeout field.
- Disable Dial-On-Demand – Specify that the connection stays working when it has traffic on the line. Once there is no traffic it will sleep after the idle timeout is reached, the connection will then stay off during the relevant schedule.
Enter the number of minutes between 0 and 255 after which the connection will sleep or switch off as appropriate to the other settings.
You can set the schedule as a one off or for selected days of the week from the start date onward’s.
This bit is important as this is how you know what your wireless network is called! SSID stands for “Service Set IDentifier” … not too exciting really (zzzz)! Anyway, just give it a name that will easily identify your wireless network, for example “Smith Family WiFi”, “The company – private” or maybe something more anonymous, just so long as you and the people using it can easily identify it. Here’s an example:
And here are some examples of SSID’s shown on a Windows PC.
In our Draytek example you can specify up to four SSID’s which you can enable individually except for SSID1 which is set on by default when you enable wireless.
If you have this option, which you should, you might want to hide your SSID so people from the street or the public in a public place for example cannot see your network therefore will not normally try to connect to it. This will mean that you will have to make a manual connection to it instead of just seeing the SSID come up on your connecting device and clicking to connect. Here’s an example of manually connecting to a wireless network if the SSID is hidden:
Tick this box to stop people with connected wireless devices from accessing other connected wireless devices.
Tick this box to stop people with connected wireless devices using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) from accessing other connected wireless devices on different VPN’s. The explanation of VPN’s are outside the scope of this article but for now, if you are curious see here.
You can probably leave this on Auto. Wireless can use several frequencies and in most cases just let the system get on with it. If you suspect interference from other wireless sources, maybe outside of your control, then you might want to select specific frequencies and see if it makes any difference.
You can ignore this unless you are still using a wireless device that uses the 11b standard. Some 11b devices sync in a different way to the norm. If you have a 11b device that will not connect to your router’s wireless then you can try ticking this box.
This feature is more or less Draytek specific. “TX Burst”, which stands for “Transmission Burst”, is a way of speeding up data transmission in the older standard 11g (see “Mode” above). With the new 11n standard this is no longer needed so this is likely to be phased out. You are unlikely to find this on other makes of routers or devices. You can safely ignore this feature.
Here you can control how much bandwidth each SSID uses, that is, how much of the available wireless network capacity should be used by each SSID. If you enable this and if you have say 2 x SSID’s active you might want to share the capacity between the two instead of the four. If one SSID is used more than another perhaps you might want to give more band width to one SSID over the other(s).
Security is such a pain but unfortunately necessary. If you don’t want unknown people connecting into your wireless network and not only using your internet but perhaps getting access to your files then you will need to put some basic security on your wireless network at least. Some routers will default to an open network and some will default to a particular security regime. If you set up your router with a configuration Wizard then it may have walked you through basic wireless security.
The mode is the type of security regime you choose one of which may be “Disabled” or “None” for example which means your wireless network is open to anyone. On some routers there may be a tick box to enable wireless security in others it may be one of several modes. Here’s a list of modes which I will explain a little but don’t worry it’s not as complicated as it looks. Most modern devices will figure out which type of wireless security is being used when they try to connect and will just ask you to put in the appropriate password.
If you don’t want to read all of this bit then to make it simple the best mode is “Mixed (WPA+WPA2)/PSK”. You will need to type in a pre-shared key which will be your wireless connection password.
WEP, which stands for “Wired Equivalent Privacy”, is an older security standard. If you have wireless devices that will only work with WEP then use this. You may need to put in a 10 character hexadecimal key/password like this “0x4142B33F3C” (computers count in base 8 or 16 etc) using numbers 0-9 and letters A-F. Some routers will allow you to put in a word or phrase which will be translated into a hexadecimal key. There are two types of WEP 64 bit (10 character key) and 128 bit (13 to 26 character). Some routers will allow you to enter four WEP keys from which you select one to be active at any time. This is a slightly odd approach but does mean that you could give people four keys from which to try connecting with, one of them will work at any time if the keys are switched around. In the authors opinion this is an odd approach but it was widely used not that long ago and does work well. In this example there are four 64 bit keys which are masked. Key 1 is active.
WPA stands for “WiFi Protected Access” and PSK stands for “Pre-shared Key” which really just means security with a password. The password or PSK bit can have between 8 and 63 characters so a long password should make it pretty difficult to guess. It can also take hexadecimal for example “x4142434445464748494A4B4C4D” but I always find this harder to remember J WPA/WPA2 is more secure than WEP and WPA2 is more secure than WPA. Why one is better than the other is more than this article aims to explain but if you want to find out then please go to WiFi Protected Access and go from there. /802.1x Only– Some selections have this after the security type. This is an advanced mode where wireless passwords/keys are administered more centrally. If this regime is in use then your IT support will probably sort it out for you or you are already know what you are doing beyond the scope of this module. I will touch on it perhaps in a later module.
What happens when you connect?
If you are here then well done and you are ready to connect a device to your wireless network. This is what should happen when you go to connect … using an Android phone in this case … From the WiFi settings screen, turn the WiFi on. Once it’s on you may see a “Scanning” message whilst it looks for networks that it can access:
If you pick an open network, without a padlocked icon and “secured with …” message then you should be connected without further ado but if the connection is password protected then you will be asked for the password.Depending on the device you will get messages similar to this:
- Connecting …
- Authenticating … (it’s checking that you password is valid)
- Obtaining IP address … (now it needs to get you an IP address from the router so that the router knows which device is which)
- Connected (your’ done, it should say which network (the SSID) you are connected to).
Password protecting your wireless network is the least you should do and as long as integrity is maintained everything should be fine. If unauthorised access is suspected or spotted then you can tie things down further with “Access Control”. Every device that can be networked has a MAC which stands for Media Access Control. Here’s an example “00-50-7F-DD-63-99”. There are several ways of finding out the MAC address of a device. The easiest is to look at the label for that device, it should be on there. If it’s a smart mobile phone or similar then try looking at the “Settings -> About -> Hardware Information” (Android) or “Settings -> General -> About” (iPhone), finding it on other phones or devices should be along the same lines. You can find out what is currently attached to your network by finding the appropriate list in the LAN section of your routers admin pages. In this example there are 5 devices attached with their local IP addresses and MAC addresses although you cannot see in this example which device is which. Some routers may allow you to attach names to MAC addresses if you want to define them.
Here’s an example of an Access Control screen. It can accommodate four SSID’s but most routers only have one. Note that here Access Control is only enabled for SSID 1.
Enable MAC Address Filter
See the example above but more usually enabling this security measure looks like this:
Note that in the example above you can switch between a White List (MAC’s allowed to connect) and a Black List (Mac’s not allowed to connect) for each SSID.
In the above example you can isolate devices attached to the wireless LAN so that they cannot get at your wired LAN. You would want to do this for example, if you wanted to give access to the internet and other wireless devices but not to your files which are on devices that are hard wired (guests that can access the internet and a wireless printer for example). Just tick the “Isolate the station from LAN” box for the MAC address you are entering. You might instead set a the policy to isolate the wireless LAN from the hard wired LAN entirely.
Clients MAC Address
Here you enter a new MAC address to add to the list; like “00-50-7F-DD-63-99” for example.
Tick this box for the MAC address you are entering to stop this device from accessing the wired network.
Add, Delete, Edit, Cancel
So you can manage your Access Control lists.
This is an odd screen in so much as it really belongs in the “Access Control” screen. Subsequently I think most routers will not have this screen. It simply shows the status of a devices connection and allows you to add a MAC address to “Access Control”.
Earlier I mentioned that you could connect a device using WPS (WiFi Protected Setup). I shall start by explaining the terms used In the diagram below:
- AP Router – This is just your wireless router, the wireless part is referred to as an Access Point, thus the “AP” bit.
- PBC – “Push Button Control” is where you press the WPS button on the router which will then wait for up to 2 minutes until you press the WPS button on the device you are trying to connect wirelessly to the router.
- PIN Code – Instead of using the push button method you can use a PIN Code. This is initially defined by the device you are trying to connect and you will have to follow the instructions for that device to define it.
Please note that WPS only works with WPA/WPA2-PSK security.
The following example is again from the Draytek Vigor 2850 series so this will look different on different routers but the essentials will be the same.
Tick this to enable WPS functionality.
This will be “Configured” as long as the appropriate wireless security has been configured in the “Security” section above.
This is the SSID for WPS connection. It will be in fact SSID1 for the router used in this example.
This must be WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK or both mixed as in the above example.
In the above example you can see the “WPS is Disabled” status is greyed and the “WPS is Enabled” status is on by its red circle in this case. The “Waiting for WPS requests from wireless clients” status with the circle rotating shows that the router is waiting for your device to connect.
Connect with the button
Press the button on the router or click “Start PBC” on the routers WPS settings screen (WPS LED blinks fast), then click the appropriate button or setting on the device you are trying to connect.
Connect with a PIN code
Define or have ready the PIN code on the device you want to connect then enter it in the PIN field and click “Start PIN” on the routers WPS settings screen (WPS LED blinks fast whilst connecting is in progress).
This feature will not be available on all routers. It simply allows a message to be displayed or redirection to a specified URL/Web Page when someone connects to your wireless network.
Router – Advanced Wireless Configuration
I was tempted to say here “now for the tricky stuff” but it’s not tricky at all it’s just stuff that is less used than the more popular configurations above. Some of this you might not be too interested in but I would advise you to stick with it as some of this you may find useful and might discover something useful that you didn’t know.
WDS stands for Wireless Distribution System. All it really means is joining two Wireless Access Points together. This can be done in two ways in this context:
Bridging means using two Wireless Access Points as if they were a physical cable joining two LAN’s together to form one LAN. Data is forwarded back and forth as if you had hardwired two switches together. This can be done multiple times, let’s say you have 4 buildings in a campus situation where you could not easily lay cables. In this case you could bridge the distances wirelessly. A more powerful directional aerial could come in handy here as discussed in I want to setup wireless network part 1.
This is used when you want to boost or repeat the wireless signal to extend your wireless networks coverage. It think this diagram shows this well.
This is set to either disabled, Bridge or Repeater.
Now you have a choice of having no security (Disable), using WEP or WPA/WPA2 where, as above WPA2 is best.
If you chose WEP then you may have a choice depending on the router, to use the existing WEP key or put in a new one for the bridge or repeater mode.
As with WEP you may have a choice depending on the router, to use the existing pre-shared key or put in a new one for the bridge or repeater mode.
Bridge & Repeater MAC’s
For either of these put in the MAC addresses of the other Wireless Access Points that you want to bridge or repeat to. Remember to enable the ones you want to use and disable the ones you are not using to maintain best performance.
Access Point Function
Disable or Enable the router as an access point for bridging or repeating.
If present and supported by the other Access Points you can send “Hello” messages to them.
This stands for “Wi-Fi Multi-Media”. Not all routers will have this and it may look very different on other routers management systems but it is the principle that is important to understand. This is about letting more important data through faster and letting less important data take a little bit more time if necessary. Take VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone calls, the data streams that carry a phone call need to get around fast or the conversation becomes broken and perhaps unintelligible wheras if it takes a little longer to download a web page it does not matter so much. Unless things are slow or you are having performance issues then you will probably want to ignore this area. This screen looks a bit complicated but let’s see if I can demystify it for you.
There are two sections. The “WMM Parameters of Access Point” affect bridging and repeating (see above) and the “WMM Parameters of Station” affect the connected wireless devices.There are four types of data defined here:
- AC_BE – Email traffic
- AC_BK – Web browsing traffic
- AC_VI – Video traffic
- AC_VO – Voice traffic
The value types are defined as follows:
Range 1 – 15 This affects the time that a connected wireless device waits for data to be transmitted. Set low for voice and video so that the data gets processed faster.
Range 1 – 15 This is to do with contention. There is lots of data contending for attention and this is a way of letting more priority data through at a time. The router will attend to certain data types more frequently. In the above example the video and voice data gets to go more often. You must set CWMax higher than CWMin.
Range 0 – 65535 This affects the priority of data transmitted. You would want to set higher values for video and voice, low for the other 2.
Tick box This stands for Admission Control Mandatory. This will restrict the appropriate type of data when ticked. You probably don’t want to tick this but let’s say you wanted to stop people viewing video’s, then you could tick it for AC_VI.
Tick box This is a compromise feature. Normally when “A” sends data to “B”, “A” asks “hey B, did you get that bit of data ok” and “B” says “yes” or “no”, if “B” says no then “A” can send again. If you tick this box then “A” won’t ask “B” to acknowledge transmissions and will just blindly send data. It’s faster but might be unreliable. Normally you shouldn’t need to tick this box.
This turns it on or off, enable or disable.
In this example screen this is possibly an odd place for this feature. This is a power saving feature. Enabling this will mean that wireless devices can spend more time in a sleeping state. This may impact performance a little so you may want to leave this disabled.
This screen allows you to find other Access Points in range so you can bridge or repeat them. Scanning takes about 5 seconds and during those 5 seconds wireless devices cannot connect. Only Access Points on the same channel can be found. This screen will vary in what it looks like and it’s functionality on other routers.
I’ll explain the column headings:
- BSSID – The MAC address of the discovered Access Point.
- Channel – The channel the Access Point is running on.
- SSID – The SSID of the Access Point.
Click the “Scan” button to start the scan. You can click the “Statistics” to get the following screen which shows which channels are working the best. In this example channel 6 is looking pretty good!
You can click the “WDS Settings” text to go straight to the WDS screen or input the MAC at the bottom, choose “Bridge” or “Repeater” and click “Add” to add it to the WDS list.
Other Advanced Settings
This is going to vary for different routers, these settings may not be present and/or may be distributed on different screens.
Transmitting data wirelessly using different 802.11 standards is not as efficient as sticking to one standard. If all your devices use Wireless N / 802.11n and there is not going to be any interference from other wireless networks then set this to “Green Field” for better performance.
This router can use a 20mhz frequency for data transmission or if set to “20mhz / 40mhz” it will use 40mhz if other devices can support this frequency which would result in faster data transmission. A setting to try out and see if it makes a tangible difference.
Data is digital but wireless is not. If that makes you think “what’s he talking about” then I should not be surprised. What I mean is that data is binary, that is, a sequence of 0’s and 1’s but the wireless that transmits the digital data around is the good old fashioned wireless that you used to and still do use to listen to the radio with. The only thing that has changed really is the type of information it carries. To this end, for each little bit of data that is transmitted a little gap is put in to space the data out so one piece cannot interfere with another. This slows things down a little but there will be less errors, it’s a bit of a compromise. Some routers let you specify a short or long gap which is what this setting is all about. Probably best to leave it as it is.
This is to do with Wireless N and is a little trickier to explain. Without going too techy it’s a about putting lots of little “packets” into a bigger “packet” and sending them out in one go, it’s more efficient than sending them out individually to the same destination. Leave enabled in normal circumstances.
Well, I think that’s quite a bit to take in so that’s it for now.
In “I want to setup a wireless network part 3″ I will talk about configuring other wireless devices etc.
How am I doing, do you have any suggestions on how I could improve this article?
End – I want to setup a wireless network part 2
One of the subjects asked about more often than others is wireless networks, how to set them up or some aspects of it. With soooo many devices connecting wirelessly this is not surprising. Devices such as tablets, phones, laptops, media systems, wireless storage even desktops these days, the list is ever increasing. There are lots of options available now to help you setup wireless networks that work well and its’ getting better all the time.
Wireless technology in itself is not easy though as everything seems to effect it; the building you are in, the position of aerials, people walking in a room, the traffic, the atmosphere, interference from other wireless device, the list goes on. Fear not though, with a little thought and perhaps experimentation within your chosen site a reliable wireless network can be setup without spending outrageous amounts of money on it. Those clever people who produce wireless equipment are getting smarter all the time.
This article is aimed at home and small to medium size businesses and I hope you will find it easy to understand, there are lots of pictures and diagrams to help clarify things so I will split it into several parts, 3 should do I hope. Large companies will have their own IT departments to sort it all out for them. Having said that I cannot think why the methods in this article cannot be scaled up to whatever size of network you want, the principles remain the same.
N Class devices
The current wireless standard “n”, also known as “IEEE 802.11n-2009”, is much better than the standards that went before it and most devices on this standard will work with other older wireless devices. I’m sure better standards will come along in the near future, in fact a new whizzy standard is in draft form right now. The range of a particular device is dependent on many factors as already mentioned but you might get 70 meters indoors and I have seen up to 250 meters mentioned for outdoors but I think that would be exceptional. There’s a Wiki article if you would like to swat up on it.
Here are the ingredients for our wireless network, use them as needed, you probably won’t need all of this. Let’s start off with the equipment.
Wireless access points, routers etc
In some part of your network you will probably want to be attached to the internet. For many setups this will be using broadband via a DSL modem or router. To make it easy most people / businesses use a device with a built in DSL (broadband) modem, a switch and a wireless access point. Here are some examples of various routers and modems with and without wireless:
Wireless access points can be obtained to extend the range of your wireless network. If your office is bigger than the range of a single wireless device, is divided into offices or is on several floors you may need more than just the router with a built in wireless access point. You can either plug another access point into your network:
or use it like a repeater so that it will connect wirelessly to another wireless access point like your router and create its own wireless area:
You can also use a wireless access point to act as a bridge linking for example one building to another without using cables:
Here are a few examples of wireless access points:
Note that the Billion network adaptor version can be plugged into your mains electricity supply if your network has been attached to your mains electricity supply. That is, either a network cable is plugged into this wireless network adaptor or another network adaptor on the same mains circuit.
Another way of increasing the strength of signal and consequently the range of wireless devices is to use better aerials. Aerial strength is measured in decibels (db) and there are two types of aerials we can use. Omni-directional; this means the aerial works in all directions, 360 degrees around it:
and directional which focuses the signal so that a strong signal can beamed in a particular direction, this is particularly useful for bridging two locations together.
A stronger aerial can either directly replace the aerial(s) you currently have or linked to your device by a length of cable. Some aerials can be mounted on walls.
Most devices come supplied with 2db or 3db aerials but it is possible to replace them with up to 10db aerials which are quite a bit more powerful.
It’s worth noting that on some devices that come with more than one aerial some of them might be used to transmit and receive and some might be used to receive only. You can check the manual or datasheet that comes with your device.
Here are a few examples of some aerials:
Dongles and devices with built in connectivity
Most devices such as laptops, tablets, mobile phones etc have built in wireless connectivity these days and if it’s a fairly recent device then it will probably be wireless N. If your device doesn’t have wireless connectivity or it is old then this may not be a problem as there are plug in devices you can use to get around this.
Let’s say you have a desktop or laptop computer with no wireless connectivity or an old wireless standard that you want to override! No problem, you can either plug in a USB dongle or install a PCI wireless adaptor.
Measuring the signal, the wireless survey
Before or after you set up your wireless network you might want to perform a wireless survey. This is about the strength of signal you are going to or do get in the places you need wireless to work. Things like thick walls or steelwork in a buildings structure, the distance from an access point etc can all have an effect. There are 2 ways of approaching this; you can either obtain the equipment or hire someone who has it to perform a wireless survey before you start setting it up or you can setup the wireless network first with a little judgement and then adjust things as you go along. The former method might give you a better start but if your setup is simple you may not need to fuss too much. If you have a small office, say 1,000 foot square then a single wireless router will probably do what you need.
If you want to perform a wireless survey before you install the wireless network then you can obtain the software and devices needed for it but unless you are quite enthusiastic about it I recommend you get in a trusted expert in this field. I’m not going to go into this area too much now but there are quite good articles available, here is one that is quite good on the Computer World web site.
If you just want to consider your wireless network, set it up and check it then there are some great aps out there for Apple and Android tablets and mobile phones. They may not be “professional” if anyone wants to get snobby about it but they will do the job. I have been using WiFi Analyzer on an Android phone (an HTC Desire HD) which seems to work pretty well!
Whichever way you do it, consider the following before you start:
- What are the areas you want the wireless network to cover. A floor plan would be helpful.
- Identify the objects that might affect the wireless network such as walls, halls, elevators and floors. You might needs some extra devices or careful siting of them to get around these things.
- Identify where the wireless network will be used.
- Identify where it won’t be used as you don’t need to cover this area.
- Depending on where you want to site access points, aerials consider where any network or mains cables need to run and are mains outlets available where you need them?
- Access points are best mounted high, near or on the ceiling is good. Watch out for metal or concrete walls or structures that can interfere with/block wireless signals.
- How many access points do you need, if they are wireless N, you are indoors and there is clear line of site then 25 metres radius per point might be sufficient although a smaller radius is probably better!
Once you have everything up and running make a rough map of the wireless areas and the strength of signal there. Monitor and adjust as necessary by re-siting access points, using different aerials, adjusting aerial positions or increasing the number of access points. The phone ap is really good for this. It’s like baking a cake, adjust the ingredients until the cake tastes to your liking!
I guess that’s enough for one chunk, now we know what bits of equipment we can use. In the next article I will talk a bit more about the configuration of it and how the wireless network may behave.
How am I doing, do you have any suggestions on how I could improve this article?
Is your broadband performing as well as it could be? Maybe it is frustratingly slow or you are thinking, maybe I could get more out of it?! There are quite a few factors involved in how good a service you get so I am going to go through them using a check list with explanations approach. It may not be exhaustive but I hope it will help.
If you think you have a problem with your broadband and you call your ISP the first thing they will ask you to do is check your equipment so let’s do this first.
- Old BT sockets and iPlates.
- Some older BT sockets have bell ringer wires that interfere with broadband. You can isolate this by plugging an “iPlate” into your BT master socket if one is not already fitted. Bell ringer wires are not needed for modern phones. This can make a significant improvement where relevant. It is possible that more recent ones have bell wires as well.
- ADSL filter – This is the little box that splits the voice element from the broadband. You plug your phone into one socket and your router into the other. You will find it plugged into a phone line wall socket.
- If an ADSL filter is not being used then start using one, the difference can be quite significant.
- Are there secondary extensions taken from the back of the master socket? If there are each one that you are using must have an ADSL filter even if it’s just a phone or a fax machine plugged into it.
- Is your ADSL filter faulty? All you can do is try another one and see if it makes a difference.
- Cables– The network cables that you use between the BT socket and the router or from the router onwards are important.
- Are any cables damaged?
- Are there any suspect plugs or sockets?
- If any are suspect try replacing them with another cable and see if that makes any difference. You may be able to swap them around to check. One faulty cable coming from the router to a switch for example could compromise the whole network.
- Are they too long? The maximum recommended distance for a cable run is approximately 100 metres, after that things start to deteriorate. Either use shorter runs or boost the signal by adding a powered switch along the way.
- Routers and switches.
- Is your router able to handle the service plugged into it, for example older routers may not be capable of handling ADSL2+ in full or in part.
- Can the router handle what you are putting through it? If you have 50 users going through a cheap router then it may be too much for it and therefore you may perceive your broadband to be slow or unreliable. Try a better router.
- Is it a 10/100 router or a gigabyte router. Older routers may only supply 10mbs to your local area network (LAN) which is probably not enough these days. Make sure it is at least supplying 100mbs or better, gigabyte speeds. This partly depends on your connected devices such as an old PC with a network card that will only support 10mbs. As above if you suspect your router try another more recent one and see if this makes a difference.
- Is your laptop PC, desktop, tablet or smart phone slow? If other devices are getting good speeds then it’s probably not the LAN or your broadband etc, it’s just that particular device or the network card in it.
- Web sites.
The distance between you and your BT exchange and the quality of the cables etc. between can make a big difference. If you are next to the exchange then your broadband service should be very good but if you are 10 kilometres away, the BT cable is old and not so great then the service you get may not be so good. Too far away and / or poor cables could at worst mean you don’t get a useable service at all or it may be unreliable. See my previous blog for more information about this.
There is not a lot you can do about this unless BT are prepared to replace some of their infrastructure but this is probably unlikely. Sometimes just having a new line put in will give you a better (or even worse) broadband service as this line may take a route back to the exchange using different cabling. BT has been known to replace the bit of cable between the green box on the street and premises but there are no guarantees that they will do this or that it will make a difference.
What can your ISP do for you?
Time to get a bit more technical but I will try and make this easy to understand. This bit you can’t really control but to some extent your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can. Some characteristics of your broadband depend on your ISP and the networks they use.
- Sync – This is simply the raw up and down connection speeds that your router reports on its online status page. It is the speed of connection between your router and your ISP. If you check your speed with something like www.speedtest.net it won’t be quite as good as this is the speed you get accessing the internet which is beyond your ISP’s area of control
- SNR or Signal to Noise Ratio – Pick a phone up and if the line is noisy (not the phone itself) then you are not likely to get as good a broadband service as when it is quiet. Broadband might be a digital service but a normal phone line is an analogue transport service and noise on it will interfere with a digital service which is not so tolerant with interference and causes data errors. BT fixing faults, should there be any, in their infrastructure could improve this.
You can usually see the SNR on your routers online status page. It’s measured in decibels and a good average is 6db. If the line is noisy and the signal is not strong enough there will be lots of errors which means the broadband appears slow as data with errors has to be re-sent to you. Your ISP can change the SNR in 3db stages from 3db to 15db to increase the signal strength. Increasing the SNR will slow your broadband down but if there are fewer errors then from your point of view it goes faster. Get your ISP to increase the SNR by 3db at a time and try it out for a few days each time. If it gets better, keep going until it slows down again or you get to 15db. If you get to say 9db and works better then go to 12db, if it slows down then get your ISP to back it up to 9db again. It’s a balance between speed and errors.
- Attenuation – This is measured in decibels. It’s the quality of signal. 10db is good, 30db is ok, 60db is acceptable, just about, more than 60db and things rapidly go downhill. Apart from changing cables or moving closer to the exchange there is not much that can be done. Changing the SNR as above should help.
- Latency – Another word for delay in this context. It’s the round trip of your data. For example, if you go out to get a take away pizza straight down the motorway it might take you 15 minutes to get back but if you go cross country down small roads with grass growing in the middle and lots of turns etc. then it might take an hour to get back even if the distance is more or less the same. This is generally the case on the internet but some services can be routed down a prescribed route if the source and destination is known, for example voice calls (VoIP) are known types of data and can be routed more directly to particular destinations and back. Some latency your ISP can control and some they cannot. www.speedtest.net will give you a “ping” speed which is the time a piece of data takes to go out to a particular destination and come back to you. It’s measured in milliseconds. 30ms is great, 50ms is still good, 80ms ok, 100ms+ not so good, 200ms+ definitely talk to your ISP.
- Jitter – This how much latency varies so for example a general variance between 30ms and 60ms is not going to cause too much of a problem but if variance is between 50ms and 200ms then things like VoIP are not going to work very well as your broadband service in effect speeds up and slows down. There are lots of reasons why this might occur and may be nothing to do with your ISP but you can ask. This problem could be within your local area network.
- Packet loss – This is caused by some of the characteristics above. Data is broken up into pieces called packets, sent to you and then re-assembled. If some packets are lost due to noise on the line corrupting them for example then the data needs to be re-sent to you which slow things down. If you went to Ikea to buy some flat pack furniture and a box was missing then you will have to go back for it which means it will take longer to put it together. In the case of a real time services such as a phone call over the internet “sme its ight be missg” and a re-send will do you no good as by then it’s too late.
If you’re broadband service is still poor after all the above and maybe a few other checks that become apparent then maybe two broadband services using a load balancing router such as the Draytek Vigor 2830 series may be the answer. At least you will get the benefit of 2 poor services combined which might then be satisfactory and probably more reliable. It could be the difference between unsatisfactory and acceptable.
In my last blog I promised something a bit lighter than all this serious stuff and I have found something worth a mention. In the blog following after this one I am going to have a bit of a rant about “Contracts – use, abuse and downright dishonesty”.
How am I doing? Please help me to improve my blogs by commenting.