Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wireless Troubleshooting

Wireless TroubleshootingWhenever troubleshooting Wireless Connectivity or a customer is complaining about dropped connection issues always remember these items...

1. Change the Channel (Auto is not your friend when troubleshooting)
For 802.11n routers we like to use channels 1,3,6,9
This one is very important, but often overlooked, one of the first things that should be done if a customer is complaining about dropped signal or intermittent wireless connectivity will be to set a static channel.

2. If connecting 3rd party devices that are not computers, use a WPA key that does not include special characters to ensure compatibility. While all devices should be able to figure out those fun &(*&*$#@( characters sometimes they cannot so go with Alpha Numeric and Upper Case / Lower Case for max interoperability.

3. If you want to achieve 802.11n speeds you NEED to use WPA2-AES also known as WPA2 Personal on our new routers. WPA2 and WPA2 Personal are the only security types that can support 802.11n speeds
Many customers that call us and complain about Slow Internet call because they have an old security being used on their network that is actually slowing down their Broadband. Quick and simple math says if a customer is paying for 20 megabits of bandwidth, but they are using WEP they are not going to be happy. Remember always try to use WPA2 Personal with 802.11n routers, if they have devices that are older recommend an upgrade to their adapter if you can (LTR, LTR, LTR) and if not inform them about the drawbacks of using older security.

Also by default remember most routers are setup to do WPA/WPA2 mixed mode to ensure maximum compatibility. While compatibility is nice it is not a friend of speed. Don't be afraid to change to a pure WPA2 configuration if the customer is using newer equipment in their network.

4. If a customer is complaining about intermittent connection or has one device that is having problems connecting to the network... Make sure that the customer has the latest drivers for their adapter. Agents love to blame the router and update the firmware... But the adapter software is equally important, and often overlooked (Remember Atheros?? Not our issue, but caused by BAD DRIVERS for the adapter ).
Also since on our newest routers you cannot manually update the firmware anymore it is even more important to properly troubleshoot the issue and focus on all possible areas of concern.

5. Make sure that the router is in the open not buried under a desk or under a pile of laundry in your basement. Wireless uses radio waves to communicate, and your router is like the radio antenna. So the higher up your antenna is the better your signal and range will be. Also a key thing to remember here most customers will put their nice new router right near an exterior wall in their home. So half of their super powerful signal is being lost out in their yard or even worse to their neighbor's house. It is always good to suggest that a customer place the router as close to the center of their home as possible. This is not going to be possible, but as a technician it is good to educate the customer about the importance of placement.

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