The man behind the machines – Microtest’s advice for your IT health

We all know the feeling: you’re trying to meet a tight deadline and the wifi is slowing you down. Worse than that, you feel like it’s totally out of your control. The good news is that there are steps you can take to minimise slow-wifi-trauma.

Engineering manager at Microtest, Robert Dent, says: “Wifi relies on a signal from a transmitter. If that signal is interrupted in any way, it will reduce in strength. Therefore, it’s important to make sure any wireless is as much in the centre of the building as possible with little or no obstruction from walls or metal structures.

Prevent wifi thieves…

“Secure your wireless with a key so that only you or a few people know it. Wifi units will also have bandwidth or usage limits – much in the same way a road becomes too congested with lots of cars – so refusing the usage will help keep your wifi running as fast as it can without slowdowns or stops.

“Similarly internal users can also be wireless thieves. If you are finding you are getting issues streaming a film, it may be that a legitimate user elsewhere on your network is downloading a file or also streaming a film, do both of these need to happen at the same time? Most wifi routers usually contain functionality to restrict known devices to only be allowed to use the network between certain times optimising the usage of the network.”

Use the latest technologies….

Improvements are constantly being made with wireless technology. A quick conversation with your Internet Service Provider should tell you if there is anything new and improved available to you. If you are unsure, always consult your local trusted IT supplier.

“Local IT companies will also usually provide a service to come out and survey your location. This will identify any issues with the above and make recommendations for improvement.”

Maximise your wifi configuration…

“This one is a more advanced check. Wireless works on a digital signal and that signal operates in a single or across multiple channels or chunks of frequencies within the digital signal usable frequency range. This can be likened in simple terms to a motorway [digital signal usable frequency] which has lanes [the channels] with vehicles of different sizes such as a single lane vehicle like a car [the signal] or multi-lane vehicle such as a wide load lorry [signal using or overlapping multiple channels]. There are many other factors at play but these are some basic things you can check yourself with some free software from any wifi connected device:

  • “Wifi Analyser” [Android]
  • “Insider Home” [Windows]
  • “Wifi Explorer” [MAC]

“These programs will enable you to identify what channel you are running on as well as any signal contention or overlaps with any other wifi in the area. Out of the box, most wifi tends to run on the similar channels although it is getting more intelligent (usually 6 or 10) so simply moving yours to an unused, less contended or overlapped signal channel can help.”