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Choosing the Right Home Office Wifi
The recent pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives, especially the ways in which we use our home. Whether you’ve been required to work from home or have made the choice on your own, the additional online activity is likely causing a strain on your home wifi, and potentially your family dynamic. Fortunately, there are multiple solutions to help solve your connectivity issues and properly setup a home office wifi system that works best for you and your current situation. While slow connections and dropped video calls can be frustrating, rushing to find the best products on the market can be even more annoying when they don’t work properly. For many, the transition to “work-from-home” life is likely a temporary one, so finding a wifi setup that doesn’t break your home or your budget. Since you’ve likely already taken the time to setup your home office, it’s best to find a wifi setup that fits your current arrangement based on a few key considerations.
1. Size of Your Home and Location of Your Router
As you would expect, many folks don’t purchase or build a home based on their potential wifi needs. The reality is most older homes are built with plaster, concrete and other solid materials that are likely to impact the ability of your wifi signal to properly cover your entire home. Conversely, new homes are built much larger and the sheer volume of space a wifi signal is required to cover may not be possible. Another concern is the location of your router. Many companies install routers against outer walls or in basement for easy access and minimal need for additional wiring, drilling, etc.
2. Location of Your Home Office
The most important question to ask when deciding how to setup your home office wifi is where your home office is located within your home and its distance from your main wifi router. Distance is one of the key drains on your wifi signal. If you’ve tucked your home office (intentionally or not) into the corner of your home or in a bedroom closet in search of a quiet space, you’re likely going to need a boost to avoid major headaches like dropped Zoom calls and slow download speeds.
3. Number of Devices You are Using
Working from home can be great. Working from home with your spouse while your kids participate in their classroom Zoom session, can be not so great. While the increase in wifi usage is likely due to the pandemic and may be temporary, the reality is the more people using your signal at once, the more likely you are to face slower speeds and increased frustration. To help you understand your potential signal needs, count the total number of devices you’re using in your home (including smart home features like your Alexa and Nest thermostat) and consider the amount of time each remains connected to your wifi in order to function.
4. Type of Applications You Will be Running
Setting up the right wifi for your home office will also depend on the type of work you’re involved in and the frequency with which you’re using high bandwidth applications. If you’re 8 to 5 work mostly consists of filling out spreadsheets, creating PowerPoint presentation or other basic Microsoft Office tasks, a basic wifi setup is likely going to get the job done. Conversely, if you’re planning to spend your days in and out of Zoom meetings, you’re going to need a more reliable signal to keep you productive throughout the day.
5. Additional Considerations
In addition to the key points already addressed, other factors you may need to consider when setting up your home office wifi include the type of internet connection available in your area, costs imposed by internet provider for router usage, and your comfort level handling potential tech problems that may arise. Everyone’s need are truly different, so it’s important to take the time to understand your personal situation and decide what you need to properly setup your home office wifi for maximum productivity and minimal frustrations.
Home Office Wifi Solutions
Wifi Extender vs. Mesh System
If you find that your standard wifi setup just isn’t cutting it for your current home office setup, there are a variety of potential solutions available to you. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and the marketplace can be confusing. The two common solutions to signal strength problems are wifi extenders and wifi mesh systems. While both appear to serve the same purpose, each solution not only provides its own unique approach to solving your home office wifi problems, but the price range for each can vary drastically. Assuming you’ve diagnosed the potential problems discussed above, you’re well on your way to choosing the right solution for you.
The job of the wifi extender is pretty self-evident: extend your wifi signal beyond its current reach. If you find your home office setup on the opposite end of your home from your main router or are just looking for a little extra boost to enjoy a Zoom session on your patio, an extender is likely to get the job done. But while they are traditionally good at filling in the “dead zones” where signal quality starts to diminish, it’s important to remember that they typically only offer roughly half the bandwidth that your main router provides and may require a separate network that you’ll need to connect to as you move throughout your home. However, wifi extenders are relatively easy to setup compared to other solutions. Most extenders simply require an electrical outlet located between your main router and the area you’re looking for a better connection. Once you find the right spot for your extender, connection to your router is completed with a push of button or through an accompanying app on your smartphone. Overall, a wifi extender is recommended if you’re just looking to boost to your easily accessible home office and you’re only needing to complete a few basic tasks throughout the day. If you’re looking to run multiple devices off the same extender, have more robust wifi needs, or live in an area where faster internet isn’t already available, a wifi extender likely isn’t the way to go.
Priced around $30, sales of the TP-Link RE220 have soared throughout the pandemic. This extender delivers dual-band wifi up to 750 Mbps, providing more than enough bandwidth to get you through your day and complete your basic work-from-home tasks. With the low cost of investment, the TP-Link extender is also perfect for a temporary situation or make-shift office space. The device’s LED light shows signal strength for the location and an ethernet port is included to allowing you to create a wireless access point for your streaming entertainment. When it comes to simple and affordable setup, the TP-Link RE220 is definitely the way to go.
While the Athena-EX is by far one of the more expensive wifi extenders on the market priced over $200, it is one of the top overall performers, delivering consistent speed and bandwidth to power multiple devices throughout your home. The device can extend your wifi range by up to 15,000 sq. ft. and is compatible with 5G internet connections. If you’re home office is setup within a larger home and you plan to be sharing your connection throughout the day with a kindergarten Zoom session, this wifi extender is sure to do the trick. The Athena-EX was specifically designed for the multi-device home, so adding the demands of your work-from-home tasks won’t be an issue.
Wifi Mesh Systems
If your home office is located within a larger area, requires more devices or you’ll be sharing your wifi with multiple users who require heavy bandwidth, a whole hole mesh system may be the better route. In short, if you’re basically looking to replace the traditional office setting within your home, you’ll want to invest in a mesh network. These systems provide for very streamlined connections and tighter security compared to the more traditional wifi extender. In general, mesh systems are more expensive than a wifi extender, but if you’re looking to fix multiple dead zones within your home, the mesh system is going to be the same compared to multiple extenders. One potential drawback, however, is the number of devices – or nodes – you’ll need for the size of your home.
Similar to its wifi extender counterpart, the TP-Link Deco Mesh System provide decent results, with up to 5,500 sq. ft. of signal coverage for less than $200 for the standard 3-pack system. The device boasts connectivity of 100+ devices, but more importantly, provides consistent wifi signal for larger homes, allowing your home office to stay connected wherever you’ve decided to locate it. The TP-Link mesh system is also very easy to setup and will have your home dead-zone free in a matter of minutes. The security is top-notch with a subscription to TP-Link HomeCare available to ensure a safer online experience for your work and personal browsing. While the Deco doesn’t provide the fastest speeds available (though newer systems are capable of handling 6G), it is more than capable of providing consistent speed throughout your home and meeting your basic home office wifi needs.
Whether you’re a diehard Google user or not, the updated Google Nest Wifi mesh system has quickly become the premier system for combining your home office wifi needs with your home’s connectivity preferences. While it’s priced at over $450 for the 3-pack bundle, the Google Nest Mesh system by far provides the fastest speeds throughout your home making it ideal for larger homes and people trying to maximize their wifi across multiple devices and high bandwidth needs. The routers are strong enough to handle up to 200 connected devices and stream multiple 4k videos at one time. As a bonus, the ability to connect your Smart Home devices into one easy-to-use system, make it ideal for the first time mesh user as well as someone looking to make a significant upgrade to their current mesh system or wifi extender.
The Best Home Office Wifi Setup For You
Like most everything these days, the pandemic has caused us to utilize our home’s in dramatically different ways. Whether you’re planning to work from home for a few months and want to make a long-term change, understand how your needs impact your wifi setup is key to choosing the right setup for you. Taking just a few minutes to answer a few key questions will go a long in saving you time and money searching for the best solution for you.