It’s far too simple to purchase a new Wi-Fi router, spend a few minutes configuring it, and then ignore it until it becomes unusable slow and outdated, at which point you must update. Here are certain options and features you ought to use right now
Automatic Updates Maintain Smooth Operation
Not every item on our list of features worth considering will be useful to everyone, but if your router enables automatic upgrades, almost everyone will gain significantly over time.
Patching security holes and general network optimization are only a couple of the advantages of updating your router’s firmware. If you read the patch notes for firmware updates, you’ll see that there are dozens of optimizations to enhance how your router handles game services, video calls, and other things for every security issue that gets patched up.
However, the majority of users don’t bother to manually check for updates or read the firmware patch notes for their routers. Even if you never give it a second thought, automatic updates make sure that your router is running the safest and most optimized firmware.
Quality of Service Regulations Give Traffic Priority
Here is a straightforward illustration to help you understand Quality of Service (QoS) on network devices if you’re not familiar with it. A road is your internet connection. Your smart TV streaming Netflix, your Windows laptop getting an update, and your spouse presenting a presentation over a Zoom call are just a few examples of the numerous programmer and services using your network.
Similar to a traffic officer, quality of service regulations identify and guide traffic. In our illustration, the traffic cop gives the Zoom call the emergency responder treatment by clearing an entire lane, while less urgent things (like the Windows update running in the background) aren’t given a dedicated express lane.
Each router has a unique way of implementing QoS rules. You can priorities all activity on a device by setting QoS rules for that device on some routers. On some, you can specify which services or types of downloads have priority (so streaming video services always take precedence over standard surfing or downloads). And on some, you might discover that it’s just a standard switch that you can turn on and off. The only setting available on Eero mesh networks, for instance, is “Smart Queue Management,” which automatically prioritizes all of your network traffic.
Regardless of how QoS functions on your router, it’s a fantastic feature that we suggest using to enhance your Wi-Fi without spending any money.
Guest networks maintain security.
You should enable a guest network on your home Wi-Fi network for a variety of reasons. It’s quite easy to increase the security and privacy of your home network. We advise everyone to implement turning on guest networks together with the rest of our basic Wi-Fi security updates because it is such a simple security upgrade.
If nothing else, setting up a guest network for visitors makes it simple to ban users from your Wi-Fi network if necessary. If not, you’re left with the inconvenience of having to reset your main password and use it on all of your smart devices, among other things.
We advise bookmarking the support page for your specific model and creating a calendar reminder to check it once a month if your router doesn’t enable automatic upgrades. It’s probably time to upgrade if your router hasn’t received any updates in a long time.
Your network is scanned by bandwidth monitoring.
A lot of routers enable bandwidth monitoring for the entire connection, per device, or for both. It’s a useful approach to see what’s going on in your network if you’re attempting to find bandwidth vampires while working within a bandwidth cap or if you’re just interested.
You might be shocked to learn that your smart security cameras, not your child’s video game addiction, are using up all of your allotted bandwidth.
Custom DNS Servers Boost Everything’s Performance
Domain Name System, or DNS for short, is the magic that enables you to type a human-readable domain name into your web browser rather than a cumbersome string of digits. Your internet experience will be significantly faster and smoother if the DNS server is quick and well-optimized.
Your router will automatically use the DNS server provided by your Internet service provider. That might work alright, or it might not. However, there are speedier third-party DNS servers available that also provide additional features like parental controls, privacy-enhancing tools, and more.
Secure remote access is provided via VPN servers.
When you’re away from home, you want to securely connect to your network so that it appears as though you’re in your living room. You might require a file from your personal file server or be travelling abroad for work and need to connect to a service without being geo blocked. Whatever the reason, the simplest method to complete the task safely is with a router that has a built-in VPN server.
Please be aware that this differs from a router that has a VPN client (in which case all traffic from your home network is routed through a VPN server outside your home). While there is a place and a time for it, a VPN router is overkill for the majority of individuals.
Dynamic DNS Simplifies Calling Home
Speaking of connecting to your home remotely, Dynamic DNS (DDNS) is a very useful tool if you frequently dial into your home network or host anything there that you wish to share with friends, like a Minecraft server.
Essentially, DDNS is a service that keeps track of your residential IP address and automatically routes requests to your home connection when they are made to your unique DDNS address (such myhomeserver.somedns.com).
The process is smoother with routers that enable DDNS because the router that controls your home network also transmits real-time updates to the distant DDNS host. Your DDNS entry is current if both your router and the internet are operational.
Parents Can Use Parental Controls Too
Many routers offer a set of filtering and limiting features together referred to as “parental controls.” Children, especially younger ones, might be handy for filtering adult content or automatically turning off the Wi-Fi at bedtime if you have them.
It’s possible that you have never even glanced at the parental controls area if you don’t have children. However, if you take away the “parental” qualifier, you’ll discover that the alternatives there are actually rather useful in a number of circumstances.
Consider a scenario in which you have a limited bandwidth constraint and have observed that many devices on your network consume a significant amount of bandwidth while they are idle. To stop bandwidth hogs while you’re at work, sleeping, or enforcing parental control laws, you can even flip internet connection off for your home during those times.
As a mental health measure, you can also apply parental restrictions on yourself. Trying to kick the incessant Instagram or Reddit scrolling habit? To break the scrolling habit, block the domain or service at the router level.
Parental controls also provide a handy workaround solution for limiting internet access on gadgets. Want a specific device, such as a smart plug, to have access to the local network but not the internet? Most parental control software only prevent access to the internet, not the local network, on the device.
Speed tests at the router level are more reliable
Internet speed tests are useful for ensuring that your internet connection is functioning as intended and that you are receiving the value for your money, but we do not advise becoming overly hooked on them.
You shouldn’t use your phone to conduct speed tests since it’s crucial to employ as few confounding variables as possible in the experiment. While connecting a computer via Ethernet directly to your router is a good idea, many routers now have integrated speed testing capabilities, allowing you to do the test immediately on the equipment that is connected to your modem. By excluding Wi-Fi conditions from the equation, you may more easily identify the slowdown’s source.
Ethernet Enhances Wi-Fi Performance
All of our suggested features up to this point have been software-based, utilizing a feature of your router’s firmware to enhance your network security, usability, or both.
The last piece of advice is one that plenty of people forget: use Ethernet to enhance Wi-Fi performance. Although Wi-Fi is fantastic, the more Wi-Fi devices you have connected to your network, the more crowded the network becomes and the harder your Wi-Fi router has to work to provide the desired experience on all connected devices.
Every device you take off the Wi-Fi network and directly connect via Ethernet reduces the load on the Wi-Fi network and gives the Ethernet-connected device a better connection. Wi-Fi has significantly improved over time, and Wi-Fi 6 includes a wide range of improvements for device-dense environments.
Therefore, if your router is close to a computer, smart TV, gaming console, or other Ethernet-capable device, plug it straight into the router. Also, if your mesh network nodes have Ethernet connections, be sure to use them. The Ethernet connector on the mesh node can be used to connect devices, removing a hop from your home network. Even though the device will be directly connecting to mesh nodes without any additional overhead, Wi-Fi will still be used.
Finally, if your router is older than three to five years and doesn’t support one or more of the capabilities we covered above, it’s probably time to upgrade. There is no reason to limit your network experience with an outdated router because newer models are speedier and more feature-rich.