August 01, 2015

TAPAs: Setting Up WiFi in Your Home or Office

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

In this issue, we will focus on tips to help set up and run a WiFi network in your home or office. Wireless networking has become more and more common in homes and offices as it allows connections for multiple devices without the need to run cabling throughout the building for connectivity. Setting up and operating a WiFi network entails both practical and ethical considerations in your professional life and practical and safety considerations in your professional and personal lives. The tips in this article work for both home and business use. This article will focus on setting up your wireless network. We will have tips on troubleshooting your network later this year.

1. Start With a Good Signal

This may seem very basic (it is very basic), but it surprises me how often people complain that they have a very poor WiFi connection in their home or office, and it turns out that they have an old connection arrangement with a relatively slow speed and/or not much bandwidth.

Internet access speed has increased over the last decade. Ten years ago, residential broadband connections generally topped out between 1.5Mbps to 3Mbps. Today they commonly reach 50Mbps, sometimes faster. Business service tends to have higher speed availability than residential. The more users you have on a connection, as a general rule, the slower it will operate. Wireless connections often run slower than a hard wired connection.

What you do on the network also bears on the speed you should try to get from your provider. Using email and a doing a bit of web surfing do not require exceptionally high speed. Gaming and streaming video require considerably more. Streaming high definition video requires even more speed to avoid lags. You might be interested in the speeds recommended by Netflix for streaming video. You can find them here.

If you don’t want to read the article, here are the Netflix download speed recommendations per stream for playing movies and TV shows through Netflix.

  • 0.5 Megabits per second—Required broadband connection speed
  • 1.5 Megabits per second—Recommended broadband connection speed
  • 3.0 Megabits per second—Recommended for SD quality
  • 5.0 Megabits per second—Recommended for HD quality
  • 25 Megabits per second—Recommended for Ultra HD quality

2. Get the Right Equipment

Once you have a good solid signal coming to your location, you need a decent wireless router to convert the signal to wireless and broadcast it throughout your location. The modem you use to connect your computer to the Internet may have built-in wireless router capability. If so, check out its technology, as you may want to bypass it and use a separate device. Wireless has been around for a while, and we have gone through several technologies. You will want to get a device with Wireless N. You can find wireless routers from many manufacturers. Reviewing routers exceeds the scope of this article. You might want to compare the routers listed in these articles:

If you have older equipment, although you probably will still be able to connect to the network, it could slow down the speed at which it operates. Upgrade the equipment to the N standard, or connect it only when you need to use it. In the best of all worlds, your equipment will all support WPA2 and use Wireless N technology (see tip 4, below). Note that some equipment operates at 2.4 GHz and other equipment at 5.0 GHz. Still other equipment operates on both. Networks on 2.4GHz generally have a longer range and those on 5 GHz generally run faster (and also are less crowded). If you have a device that runs both, you can often solve a connection problem by shifting from one to the other.

3. Location, Location, Location

Yes, that is the key to the value of real estate. It is also a critical factor to the quality of the connections you get in other parts of the building. If you set your wireless equipment up in the basement, you will likely not get good connectivity. You don’t need line of sight to connect; but the fewer walls, doors and large pieces of furniture between the router and the device you want to connect, the better the connection. Also, higher is almost always better in terms of signal coverage. If you have one room with connection issues, you might also think about getting a repeater device to rebroadcast the signal, giving you a better connection in that location.

4. You Need Security for Personal Safety and Ethical Considerations

Several levels of security apply to wireless networks. You need to consider these issues at the time you set up the network. The network will have an SSID (Service Set Identifier). The SSID is the network’s name. You can set up a network without a password, leaving it open for anyone and everyone to access. YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT. Most networks come with either WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) or WPA (Wireless Protected Access), or both, available. WPA is the newer of the two and provides stronger protection. WPA2 is the newest iteration of WPA and gives the most protection, including encryption of information while traveling. You should opt for that choice in setting up any wireless network. When you set up your network, you will have the option of choosing a password in most cases. Always set up a password and always choose a strong password (8 or more characters including a mixture of lower and uppercase alphabetical, numeric, and symbolic characters). As an additional precaution, some people choose to hide the SSID, so that casual strangers will not see the network. If you hide it, you need to access it by identifying it first. Anyone serious about gaining access can use equipment that will sniff out a network with a hidden SSID, so it does not offer a great deal of additional protection. It will, however, likely keep the casual user off your network as the casual user probably will not know how to find it. Although many people still employ this technique, we don’t think it offers enough to overcome the attendant inconvenience, and instead choose to rely on secure passwords to restrict access.

5. Two Networks Are Better Than One

Whether you are at home or at work, a second network gives you better security. That way you can provide wireless access to friends or clients or other attorneys as a courtesy, without allowing them into your office or personal network, where they may be able to access your personal information or client information. Many newer routers allow you to set up dual networks. The dual network devices cost a bit more, but represent a good value when you factor in the security they offer.

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Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is editor-in-chief of GPSolo magazine and GPSolo Technology eReport. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today's Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. He may be reached at jallenlawtek@aol.com. You may also get updated technology information from his blog: jallenlawtekblog.com. Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter.  Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyer Division, the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association, the Houston Young Lawyer’s Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport.