Hearing the creaking and creaking of a dial-up modem isn’t the only indication that your networking solution is outdated. Walk into any store that sells networking gear and you’ll be faced with two main solutions: a single router – what you see in most homes – or a mesh Wi-Fi networking product.
While mesh Wi-Fi products may seem complex, deploying them has both advantages and disadvantages. Mesh Wi-Fi can be powerful and extend range, for example, but it’s not necessary for all businesses or remote workers – it depends on a variety of factors, including business needs and size of network. ‘a property.
What is Mesh Wi-Fi?
Mesh Wi-Fi systems are networks that work much like a pyramid. Instead of your internet being supported by a single router – the Atlas of Computing Technology, meant to bear the brunt of your data transfer – mesh networks rely on a series of nodes. These nodes, which are physical devices often shaped like pucks or small speakers, share that load and enable simpler connections, easier expansion, and faster speeds.
While some customers may choose a cheaper Wi-Fi extender to achieve the goal of extending coverage in a given space, most of these products can only talk to the router itself. This constant back and forth leads to a large amount of problems, including reduced signal quality and a more difficult user experience.
Whether you need a wireless mesh networking solution is fundamentally a matter of scale. However, if you can rotate it, a mesh network will – in general – increase your internet speed and provide a better overall user experience.
How does mesh Wi-Fi work?
Technically, these networks use what is called a mesh topology to communicate with each other. Then, algorithms are used to determine which traffic should go through which node in the network.
Two or more nodes are connected to establish the mesh Wi-Fi network, with one node connected to an internet modem and the others placed throughout the space. These nodes are all part of the same network and share the same service set identifier (SSID) and password, which makes scaling very easy.
These nodes also handle backhaul, the task of sending data back to the initial Internet access point (in this case, a mesh router). Large-scale installations, such as in universities or for open Wi-Fi projects in cities, usually depend on the mesh network. Otherwise, the volume of traffic would not be manageable at this scale.
Why do businesses and remote workers need mesh Wi-Fi?
With more and more people working from home over the past couple of years, the number of properties accessing the internet has increased, and more and more people are going online as well. The pandemic has seen more than 700 million people come alone, according to the UN, bringing the total number of internet users to 4.9 billion. In 2020, meanwhile, 92% used the internet daily, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported.
However, the need for internet speed may vary depending on your business. If you’re happy with your current Ethernet solution and have no reason to upgrade, mesh Wi-Fi networks may not make a difference. For example, if your only use of the wireless network is for customers in a small waiting room, the corporate wireless mesh network may be too expensive or confusing. However, if you’re a tech startup and have hundreds of users on their phones or laptops at any one time, a mesh Wi-Fi network might be a good idea.
For the remote worker, especially if you share a space with many people, a mesh network may do the trick. Operating a mesh network is also simple, with the distributed structure mitigating outages. Indeed, if a node goes down, it does not mean that the whole network goes offline. Finally, by default, repeaters often rely on an SSID, the name it gives itself. In practice, this means you don’t have to switch between extenders when moving to different parts of the house. With a mesh solution, your device sees the network as a cohesive whole.
What are the disadvantages of using mesh Wi-Fi?
While mesh Wi-Fi networks have a number of obvious advantages, such as the ability to increase range and ease of network scaling, there are also some disadvantages.
For one thing, these networks are much more expensive than many commonly used alternatives; you can buy a traditional non-mesh extender for up to £30, for example, while a mesh Wi-Fi system from a reputable brand can easily cost hundreds of pounds. Second, more nodes means more devices to plug into. This means that if you have minimal power outlets or are concerned about your power consumption, a mesh network may not be the best solution.
Finally, it is widely reported that mesh networks are initially more difficult to get working than your usual setup. With something like an extender, you often click a few buttons and then go for the races. However, a mesh network – much like a surround sound speaker system – requires you to choose the optimal locations around your property to place the nodes in order to achieve maximum coverage.
Additionally, with a mesh network, you’re often tied to a single ecosystem, so mixing and matching brands can be difficult or nearly impossible. Likewise, if you choose a mesh system from a lesser-known manufacturer that could go out of business, you may find yourself without customer service or additional products if and when you run into problems or want to expand.
How to secure mesh Wi-Fi networks?
While mesh networks are marketed as being more secure than their counterparts, there are some concerns you should keep in mind when trying to boost your network.
Each node in a mesh Wi-Fi network looks more like a computer than a regular Wi-Fi extender or repeater. With this additional capacity comes the possibility of additional risk. On the plus side, many mesh offerings come from big brands like Google and Amazon, which have built-in hardware and software protections, including things like encryption and real-time antivirus.
Finally, if you’re the type of consumer who already trusts these tech giants with your data, you can rest a little easier knowing that things like automatic updates you’ve set on your smartphone or your tablet will be implemented in your Wi-Fi connection.
With more nodes there are also more physical access points, but in a home office environment, mesh networks are often tied into smart home solutions. If your Google Home ecosystem also powers, say, a security camera, your network is actually working to protect itself.
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