As physical media dies out in the wake of digital media streaming, services like Hulu and Netflix are offering more content than ever before. I personally find that to be a good thing and only use streaming for the most part in my home. I don’t have cable and just recently bought a Blu-ray player for my wife’s old movie collection (crazy, right?). But, if you find yourself buffering movies more than watching them, it might be a good idea to look at your home network and see if it’s up to spec and not bottlenecking your current streaming load. Let’s look at the parts individually.
Since there are many different ISPs out there you may or may not be able to use your own modem. My suggestion is that if you can use your own, do it! Often, ISPs will give you the cheapest modems they can find.
- Keep it cool and reboot it often!
- Make sure the coaxial (RG6/RG59) cable that runs to your home (the cable that connects directly to your modem) is in good condition, you don’t want to see any damage, kinks, or loose connections in this cable as it is the main feed to your home and will impact network speeds.
- Look for a modem with at least 300mbps download capability.
The router is one of the most important parts of your entire network so this is not the place to cheap out. In fact, having an older model, or one that is going bad, can choke your entire network and cause all streaming to work poorly, or even not at all.
- Dual or tri-band features that use 2.4 and 5Ghz. I currently use a dual-band router with the 2.4Ghz band for phones and laptops (low bandwidth devices) and the 5Ghz band for Amazon fire sticks, Roku, and Nest cameras (high bandwidth devices). This streamlines data traffic and keeps everything running smoothly with minimal lag.
- Avoid wireless N and go right for wireless AC. It’s almost three times faster.
- Use Cat6 jumpers (also called patch cables). They are cheap (less than $1 a piece on Amazon/eBay) and will help with bandwidth.
All network system needs and requirements will be different, so there are no hard and fast rules for adding WAPs. However, if you have streaming devices more than 35 feet from your nearest wireless router or WAP that aren’t getting a strong signal, or buffer often, add another WAP closer to that location as needed.
- I like to try to match the brand of my router to my WAPs. This is useful because they generally have the same features and will be easier to set up to work together. However, this not necessary, and you can mix and match brands if you really want to.
- As above, it’s smart to avoid wireless N and go for wireless AC’s three-times-faster speed. And get a dual or tri-band WAP that matches your router.
- Don’t put your WAP behind a TV or in the attic. The best place for WAPs is near the ceiling and in an unobstructed area if possible.
- Do invest in a good quality network.
- Do hire a professional if you are unsure what do or buy, this can save you time, money and headaches later.
- Do change the password on your network to better secure it.
- Do buy a bigger switch than you need. You may (and probably will over time) have dead ports and want to add on more wired connections. I often do!
- Don’t leave the default password and security settings the same, change them!
- Don’t use wireless when you can use a hard-wired connection (within reason).
- Don’t place any wireless router or WAP in a metal box, near a microwave, behind a TV, or in a rack. It will limit your signal quality and speed.
- Don’t place two wireless devices less than 20 feet apart, they can interfere with each other.
I hope this helps keep your network up to speed and improves your streaming performance. If you have any questions for me, please leave a comment below!