It’s time to speed up your business network

It’s time to speed up your business network

A friend of mine recently wrote about the “pleasures” of having slow internet in Grand Bahamas. Of course, she was there on vacation; For me, vacation is just a word in the dictionary. I’m the kind of person who used to send stories using a 300 baud acoustic modem on a pay phone. Now, that it was slow!

But for today’s work, we need the fastest possible internet in our offices and workplaces. That’s because now more than ever, whether we’re working from home, the office, or a combination of the two, we need fast internet with a capital “F.”

As analyst firm CCS Insight found in its latest Employee Workplace Technology Survey 2022, 37% of respondents said slow networks were their biggest connectivity frustration. This was followed by poor mobile signals, 30%; Unreliable home Wi-Fi, 29%; and Wi-Fi in corporate offices, 29%.

I feel your pain.

I’m working from our Myrtle Beach condo this week with their 5 Mbps DSL internet connection. Oh how I long for my home office Gigabit connection!

I got my nose rubbed at how bad this was when a recent Zoom meeting stuttered into oblivion. Today, as counted by CCS Insight, businesses are relying on video conferencing programs like Microsoft Teams and Zoom like never before. In 2021, the use of online video conferencing increased by 50%.

At the same time, the popularity of old phone calls is rapidly falling. Their survey showed that calls from desk phones and mobile phones dropped by 20%. Instead, people are using instant messaging systems like Slack and, you guessed it, video conferencing apps.

By comparison, a phone call, even if made using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), can take as little as 100 Kilobits per second (Kbps). A group Zoom call requires a minimum of 1Mbps upload and 600kbps download per user. (In practical terms, it would triple those bandwidth requirements.)

Looking ahead, CCS Insight and you see desk phone usage declining rapidly over the next 12 months. Instead, we will see strong growth in voice and video calls.

This will have two business impacts.

The first is that you’ll need faster internet speeds to meet the demands of video conferencing. Second, it’s time you reconsidered how much you’re paying for PBX and traditional phone services.

I’m not saying it’s time to get rid of your PBX, it’s not. But I can see the eventual end of business landlines from here.

Of course, your home workers need all the internet speed they can get. They may not share an Internet connection with a dozen other employees. Still, it’s likely to be shared with kids playing video games and family members watching “The Batman” in 4K resolution on HBO Max.

While getting faster last-mile internet will help, you need more than that; you also need to speed up your local office network and Wi-Fi.

For actual speed, you still can’t beat Gigabit Ethernet. Wi-Fi is all well and good, but it will never replace Ethernet cable to servers and routers.

However, for most users, Wi-Fi is where it is.

If you haven’t upgraded your Wi-Fi hotspots and meshes since 2020, it’s time to upgrade.

What you should look for is equipment that supports WiFi 6also known as 802.11ax.

The big reason to upgrade is that Wi-Fi 6 offers a nearly 40% increase in pure performance over its immediate predecessor, Wi-Fi 5.

Behind the raw speed boost, Wi-Fi 6 also uses Multi-user, Multi-input, Multiple-output (MU-MIMO), Y Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) to allow the Wi-Fi router to split connections into eight simultaneous streams. The net result is a fourfold increase in effective bandwidth per user.

Another Wi-Fi 6 feature, Target Wake Time (TWT), is a beneficial power saving scheme. Allows Wi-Fi 6 devices to sleep until they need to send and receive data. This gives useful Internet of Things (IoT) devices like security cameras and video doorbells better battery life. It also helps smartphones and laptops.

You can get Wi-Fi 6 equipment for as little as $70, but you don’t want to buy cheap unless you have no other choice.

Less expensive PCs don’t have the CPU power or multi-Gigabit ports needed for superior performance. Decent team, like the TP-Link Archer Line and the Asus Zen WiFi ET8It goes for prices ranging from $200 to $500.

If you want even more speed and the ability to handle dozens or hundreds of devices, you’ll want to move on to WiFi 6E. In particular, Wi-Fi 6E can handle multiple Internet addresses.

That happens more often than you think. Nowadays, every damn piece of equipment in your home, including your refrigerator and washing machines, can have its own IP address.

Wi-Fi 6E is also faster than Wi-Fi 6. In fact, the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6E it’s the first Wi-Fi router I’ve tried that can actually deliver a Gigabit per second signal over the air.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Wi-Fi 6E hardware is expensive.

Prices start at around $400, and my Orbi Wi-Fi 6E mesh set me back $1,500. On the other hand, it also covers two buildings with 3,500 square feet.

So, you get what you pay for.

Finally, when considering your Internet and network future, remember that a network is only as fast as its slowest link.

If your laptops, for example, are still using the outdated 802.11n Wi-Fi chipsets, they still can’t go faster than 300Mbps, even if they’re sitting on top of a 6E router that puts out a 1Gbps signal.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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