Learn how to speed up wired and wireless networks, identify and manage bottlenecks and get everything running like clockwork
Not being able to get online is an incredibly frustrating situation, as we've discovered here at PCA Towers during recent losses of web access and network connectivity. It's all very well taking a laptop to a nearby coffee shop, where the Wi-Fi is free and the beans freshly roasted, but who's to say how secure that wireless connection really is?
Other network problems arise in the office. While one employee is taking part in a webcast or streaming a video clip, everyone else may find their web connection clunky. Even Spotify and online radio stations can affect office network performance.
Similar issues occur at home. That all-you-can-eat broadband connection suddenly seems less impressive - and gets a lot slower - when Mum's making a Skype call to a friend, Dad's checking his Fantasy Football team and the kids are instant-messaging their mates. And it doesn't help if the technology needed to deliver it all is prone to flakiness, or if the hardware or network software limits the bandwidth.
There are several ways to speed up your home network. First is to upgrade from an older 802.11b/g network to one that supports the latest, much faster wireless-n standard. This is able to offer wireless video and music streaming - ideal if you want to use a feature such as Windows 7's Play To function.
Laptops, network media drivers and peripherals such as printers that support this protocol are now available. You'll need a suitable router to provide the additional bandwidth, but prices are already competitive. It took almost two years for the standard to be ratified, and many manufacturers brought out ‘draft-n' products that are firmware-upgradable.
Office users aren't quite so lucky. The cost of upgrading the network infrastructure is likely to be prohibitive, so a fatter pipe or faster network switch won't necessarily cure the symptoms. Instead, you may have to look at what's causing the bottlenecks in ?the first place.
Once you've identified the traffic hold-ups and resource hogs, you can limit their video streaming to after hours or prioritise email traffic instead.
Speed up your network
Step 1. Network slowdowns can be tricky to troubleshoot. Much depends on what you're using the network for; copying files to another system might slow to a crawl if you're writing to a NAS device attached to an old PC. However, a few general tweaks and tricks can boost your network performance in Windows.
Step 2. Check your PC's connection status. In XP, go to Start, Connect To and view all connections. In Vista and Windows 7, type network connection into the search field. You should also run the troubleshooting wizard and install any new Windows updates and the latest drivers for your network cards.