Speed up transfers
- Use wires whenever possible: A wired network (ideally one based on wired ethernet) is inherently more reliable and usually much faster than the open airwaves. There's generally no reason for you to locate a network storage drive at a distance from your router, so plug it into an ethernet port. The same goes for a network printer.
- Get gigabit: Most recent PCs have built-in gigabit ethernet, which means they can transfer data at a whopping 1,000Mbps (megabits per second) – but only if your router possesses a gigabit switch. For network backups, the extra throughput can mean the difference between an all-night operation and one that completes itself in a short amount of time.
- Buy matching Wi-Fi gear: To achieve the top speeds promised by the latest Wi-Fi standard, draft-802.11n, every wireless device on your network must have a draft-N adaptor (about £50 each). Update the firmware on any draft-802.11n devices regularly. Vendors are now bringing the first
The biggest obstacle to good Wi-Fi reception is no longer distance, since most Mimo (multiple input, multiple output) and draft-N routers are able to cover an entire house. Interference resulting from nearby networks in any urban area is, however, a concern. Fire up your laptop at home and you'll probably see a long list of networks.
Because the 2.4GHz band within which 802.11b, g and most n gear operates has only three non-overlapping channels, networks in the vicinity of yours are likely to degrade your throughput. The latest 802.11n draft in effect mandates a 50 percent reduction in performance when your network is in the presence of other active Wi-Fi networks.
To minimise interference, install and run a utility such as NetStumbler to determine the strength and channel of each available network. Set your router to the channel farthest from those of the strongest nearby networks. A router's automatic channel selection feature does this for you.
A dual-band draft-N router is a useful option. The Buffalo Nfiniti Dualband Router lets you run 802.11b/g devices on the busy 2.4GHz band while using 5GHz for high-bandwidth apps.
For more information on network security, our sister site Techworld has a comprehensive network security resource page.