Ask Graeme - Adding Mesh to your network

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Ask Graeme - Adding Mesh to your network

A reader sent in some great questions about his home network last month, and asks how easy is it ‘really’ to add Mesh Wi-Fi to his existing home network?

From Pete’s email, he has Cat6 cabling through parts of his home, but has been forced (due to changing ISP’s over the years) to change his main router from time to time too. He expects to receive another (Cable) Router again soon with the NBN being rolled out in his area.

His question is a common one I hear from many customers, as often these router changes involves a ton of ‘other’ changes across people’s home networks in a cascading effect that ends in the customer often having to virtually reset and re-build their entire network from scratch again. People end up spending many hours trying to remember every device on their network, the IP addresses, the passwords for each device, and then having to reconfigure them all to work with the new Router. Even for those of us that keep lists of their devices and set static IP’s across their network, it can be a waste of an entire weekend making changes, so it’s no wonder people don’t upgrade as often as they should to enable all the great functionality available in the latest networking gear. It’s the old ‘if its not broken, don’t touch it’ scenario...

So why are what I call ‘Mesh in a Box’ products, such as D-Link’s Covr solutions, any different? First of all, and possibly most importantly from Pete’s perspective, is that they are designed to simply connect to your ‘existing’ gateway or Modem supplied by your Service Provider. This means that it doesn’t matter if you have a Cable Modem, a VDSL Modem, or an Ethernet Based Gateway such as when you have Fibre or Satellite coming into your home, the idea behind the latest Mesh solutions is that they simply plug into an available port on your existing modem router, and effectively provide an entire ‘new’ Wi-Fi network across your whole home.

This means that you can even leave your ‘old’ Wi-Fi network running (that might be switched on by default in your ISP-supplied Modem that you can’t even access), but everything can connect to the new Mesh Wi-Fi network, whilst ignoring the old, usually slower Wi-Fi network provided by the gateway supplied by the ISP. Of course, if all your home devices are using the older 2.4GHz channels only, then you might in fact slow your network due to more interference, but these days, more and more devices are using 5GHz channels, and so that congestion is becoming less of an issue as a result.

Unfortunately, if you already have devices set up on the old network, you will need to reconfigure those clients to go onto the shiny new Mesh Wi-Fi network. However, if you plan ahead, due to another key benefit of a Mesh network is that you have a single Wi-Fi network name (or SSID) across all the bands available on the device, a tip would be to make this Wi-Fi name you select something generic, that is repeatable in the future when you do upgrade your network. That way, hopefully, you will never need to change all your clients again each time you upgrade your Wi-Fi solution in the future, saving you any angst and frustration moving forward.

I do this a lot myself at home. I have a stable, hard-wired, Gigabit Ethernet backbone about my home which I can connect PCs and devices that don’t need Wi-Fi onto, as well as a Seamless Wi-Fi network across the entire home using the latest Mesh technology, which I can switch out in the future if I need to, without major configuration changes to everything on the network when that happens.

Hope this gives you some ideas Pete, and look forward to hearing more networking questions from our other readers for next month’s edition.

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