More often than not you will find that your customers haven’t touched their home network setup since they first installed it. This set-it-and-forget-it mindset can result in a slew of network problems, especially when unexpected events happen leaving you or your technicians to pinpoint the problem when they call asking for help. So here are the most common home networking mistakes everyday consumers tend to make, and how you can solve them while helping your client get into healthy home network habits.

They didn’t think about what their network needs

More often than not most consumers who are buying networking equipment (especially wireless) are simply looking to connect devices that require a wireless connection. When focused solely on that, consumers generally don’t consider how much coverage they need for the size of their home, how many devices are connecting to the network as well as the types of walls and floors they have.
Make sure you support and assist your clients with some pre-planning, measure out the square footage and know the layout of the home. Encourage them to get to know the user manual (and not just rely on the quick setup guide). There are many useful features in modern home routers, even if your client doesn’t make use of all the features, it’s always good to be familiar with them. Such as how to add a printer or external drive to a router or getting into the basics of QoS prioritization settings. The great part of this is that if you are very familiar with the layout of your client’s home, you will be able to make strong suggestions on upgrades and new equipment specific to the client’s needs.

Bad Router Placement

A lot of consumers will try and hide the router for decorative reasons, while this certainly helps with the aesthetic of the room it does not allow the router to operate at optimal performance. So tell your client to move the router to a more open space (such as a hallway) and in the center of the home. If your client will not budge on removing the router from a decorative fake book cover on their shelf, suggest a wireless range extender or power line adapters, these will help boost the signal to light up the dead spots that their decorative placement has created.

Failure to record old router settings before an upgrade

Normally when a consumer wants to upgrade their home router they tend to immediately toss the old equipment without writing down relevant information such as passwords and usernames. This creates issues when setting up and configuring the new replacement router (especially for QoS prioritization or port forwarding). So encourage healthy home network habits by insisting your client always write down old router settings, especially customized settings. Make sure to tell your client that this makes it much easier for their devices (phones, laptops, tablets) to access the new router once it’s setup and configured. Plus it gives the added bonus of having the information ready for their friends or spouse who may need to reset the network while your client is not at home to help them.

Leaving the equipment in default mode out of the box

The big danger here is the client not setting up security for the home network and leaving it as an open network and vulnerable for strangers to access. But there are other less obvious dangers here, such as not changing out the default password to get into the router itself. Many people know the factory setting user name and password to get into different types of routers. If the client is complaining of Wi-Fi performance issues suggest that they change the channel for the Wi-Fi frequency. Most home routers will default to a channel that most of their neighbors are on as well. Advise your client on changing their router’s password, the SSID name and password. Adjust the Wi-Fi channel settings to gain optimal performance and coverage. Bonus: Check to see if the router has options for a guest feature, and turn it off if the client does not plan on using it.

They are using old Wi-Fi devices, bringing down the new router’s overall performance

A typical user will upgrade their router to newer standards such as 802.11n or 802.11ac, but will fail to see that older clients are accessing the network and bringing down performance. So that old laptop your client is using every once in a while could be the cause. Wireless systems will act on the “lower common denominator” principle. This sets the router’s performance to a standard which uses the lowest possible top speed. Make sure your customer upgrades any older client devices that still may be used on the network, especially if it’s 802.11b. Also, check if there is an option for the router to operate in “802.11n only” or “802.11ac only” mode, this prevents older devices from accessing the faster network entirely. Bonus: Don’t try to optimize the router before it’s even working. Your technicians should only make necessary changes (setting the SSID or turning it off, configuring security) to get the device working before going in to make adjustments. The majority of the time, the average user doesn’t need to make a lot of changes. But be sure to always write down any changes that are made so they can be referenced in case anything else needs to be fixed or changed later on.

The client is not checking for firmware updates

This is an unfortunate symptom of the set-it-and-forget-it mindset. For the most part this problem is getting solved with smarter equipment that can check for updates on its own, but many home routers on the market currently still don’t update their firmware automatically. New settings and updates can really boost a router’s performance, this is especially true for newer routers that get updates once new Wi-Fi standards are approved. For a normal user, updating this is a daunting and annoying process which means that it’s more likely than not your client has not updated their firmware at all. An update often requires users to go into the manufacturer’s website, download new firmware and then update with a computer that is connected directly to the router via Ethernet. Unfortunately since updating router firmware is still a manual process your client is probably going to detest it. The most you can do is send them reminders about upgrading firmware on their routers and giving them adequate support should they need help doing so.

They immediately default to a ‘hard reset’ whenever something goes wrong

It’s a common known fact that most routers come equipped with a “hard reset” button, which is normally a small red button on the back of the router that can be accessed with a pen or paperclip, pressing it returns to the router unit to the default settings it came with. While this is a great option for some problems, many users will default to pressing this button even when something very small goes wrong. This, coupled with the fact that many users did not take the time to write everything down as previously mentioned, will result in a loss of all important information in regards to the router. What was the ISP username? Password? IP address? security keys? If you’ve encouraged healthy home network habits in your client this shouldn’t be a problem because they have written everything down, if not, it means the both of you have some work to do.

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