We’ve all seen it before, a friend or relative with a fancy entertainment system that barely works. Their devices won’t connect, the audio drops out randomly, and streaming takes so long you actually start half-wishing for the days of Blockbuster movies again.
More often than not the faulty system can be attributed to the fact that the prior integrator didn’t feel comfortable enough with network integration to offer the client the knowledge or options to create a stronger and more reliable home network. So here are some things you as an integrator need to know to help provide a solid network for your customers.
♦ Become knowledgeable and familiar with the ISPs in your working area
This is necessary because you need to bypass your ISP’s router. This particular step varies in difficulty depending on the ISP being used. For example Verizon FiOS involves calling in to activate the Ethernet jack on the ONT and then rewiring the system. This method helps keep their router working to serve the STBs their on-screen data but disallows their old router to manage network traffic. For other ISPs it can be as simple as logging into the current router and setting it to bridge mode. While this seems like a lot of trouble, arming yourself with general knowledge of the different ISPs in your area will make all your setups more efficient and robust.
♦ Don’t shy away from enterprise grade gear
It’s very common for integrators to try a simple solution to home networking with equipment they are already familiar with such as setting up several AirPort Extremes in bridge mode to act in place of WAPs, and consider the matter done with. Methods like these will certainly improve the overall wireless coverage of the home network but will do nothing to create a stronger and healthier network. The best course of action, for not only your client but yourself, is to bypass the ISP router and install an enterprise grade router and WAPs. This will make the network much stronger and grant you and your client greater control over it. Enterprise grade equipment gives you the ability to remotely access the network and troubleshoot remotely to avoid sending technicians out to fix future issues. It’s absolutely worth it to spend the extra money and put a router and two WAPs in your home installations. If you’re nervous about learning the new equipment and systems, to first do it in your own home and you’ll see that you’ll pick it up very quickly once you are hands on with the new systems. Trust us, we’re not the only ones saying this. A recent report published by Tolly shows the importance of using the right equipment.
“Small and medium sized businesses demand high performance, purpose built switches to adapt to the increasing demands of 802.11ac Access Point and VoIP deployments.
To help businesses stay competitive, Linksys introduces a new line of business class managed switches for Gigabit Ethernet deployment. In addition to Layer 2 and Layer 3 features, Linksys switches offer Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+), IPv6, quality of service(QoS), Auto Voice VLAN for VoIP, and 10G SFP+uplink expansion in an all-in-one, affordable solution.
Linksys commissioned Tolly to evaluate its topline 52-Port Managed Business Gigabit PoE+ Switch LGS552P to Cisco Small Business comparable PoE+ switch model SG300-52P in benchmark testing on Performance, Power Efficiency, Software Features and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
The Linksys switch matched the performance of the Cisco Systems SG300 across all the performance tests. In addition, the Linksys switch has a lower cost per Gigabit of throughput delivered and per Watt of PoE delivered”
♦ Familiarize yourself with DHCP Pools and Static IPs, and then standardize your Static IP addresses
If you aren’t yet familiar with the concept of Static IP addresses, check out this quick how-to article. For more in depth walk-through check out Luxul’s How-To Videos. Once familiar with this it’s a good idea to set up your equipment with static IP addresses using a standard method across your business. For example, routers might always have a final octet of 24, and WAPs might have IPs ending in 25, 26, etc. This standardization will help you and your technicians pinpoint issues during troubleshooting much faster and far more accurately.
♦ Don’t forget to use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
We still see integrators out there (usually the ones using a plethora of Apple AirPort Extremes) who are still not activating the 5 GHz bands in the customer’s routers (it also doesn’t help that AirPort Extremes don’t activate it by default). All integrators know that both bands have their own advantages and disadvantages, but you should always offer superior service by activating both and telling your client to connect the 5 GHz band when within range and the 2.4 GHz when it’s out of range. This is due to the fact that the 5 GHz band has faster speeds, experiences far less interference, and can carry more bandwidth. However, the 2.4 GHz band has superior range and can more easily penetrate walls and other surfaces. Enabling both allows your customers to get the best of both worlds.
♦ Strongly consider signing up for a DDNS service.
A Dynamic DNS service allows you to reach your client’s home remotely, even if the IP address that was assigned to them by their ISP happens to change. This is similar to a normal website, where typing in the URL will take you automatically to the IP address, instead of having to type the IP address of a website. While most commercial websites have static IP addresses, your customer’s homes will likely have dynamic DHCP-assigned IP addresses. Thus it’s imperative to have a way to access the network reliably for remote access and for your client to be able to control their homes remotely. Don’t forget to check with your manufacturing partners, as you might be able to get a DDNS service for free.
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