The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of our “normal” workplace systems and business processes mainly due to the prescribed social distancing measures. More and more companies have shifted to a remote work setup for employee safety. As most people are working from home, it’s crucial to stay connected by having access to a secure Wi-Fi network.
So how do you set up a home Wi-Fi system for remote work? Once you’ve purchased a wireless router, place it in an open space where walls and floors won’t block the signal too much. Afterward, connect the router to your modem with an Ethernet cable. Turn the modem on, plug the router in, and configure your Wi-Fi router according to the instructions.
How to Set Up Your Home Wi-Fi
The success of working from home depends on your internet access. If you have high-speed, broadband internet service at home, it’s easy to create your home wireless network or Wi-Fi. Having Wi-Fi access allows you to connect laptops, smartphones, and other devices to home internet without an Ethernet cable.
Buying a Wi-Fi Router
Before you can create a Wi-Fi network, you’ll need a wireless router to broadcast the Wi-Fi signal from the internet modem throughout the house. While some Internet service providers (ISPs) offer wireless routers for a small monthly fee, you can easily purchase one according to your needs. There are plenty of wireless router buying guides around, but the main consideration is whether or not to purchase a Wi-Fi 6 router or a Wi-Fi mesh system.
- Wi-Fi 6: If you’re looking for the latest in speed and security, Wi-Fi 6 is the emerging standard. It’s perfect if you’re planning to replace a router that’s more than 3 years old.
- Wi-Fi mesh: Wi-Fi mesh systems are popular because they’re easy to install and provide whole-home Wi-Fi coverage. A mesh system contains a series of compatible “nodes” that integrate seamlessly into a single wireless network.
Placement and Setting Up
For optimal coverage, it’s important to place the router in an open space close to the center of the residence. Walls and floors block the signal, so it’s best to minimize these obstructions to avoid a weaker or slower signal. Although it may take time, you can test it out to find the most optimal spot.
Once you’ve found the best place, connect the router to the modem with an Ethernet cable. Plug the cable into the WAN (wide area network) port on the router — labeled WAN or Internet — then connect the other end of the cable to the Ethernet port on the back of the modem. Turn the modem on, plug the router into the wall outlet, and wait at least 30 to 60 seconds to make sure the lights are working correctly after you turn the router on.
The steps for router configuration vary depending on the device manufacturer, although most of the latest models can be configured from a smartphone app. Set up your network with a username and password, then configure the settings for the unique settings your model has.
Securing Your Home Network
Your router is the most important gadget for internet use at home. It checks incoming and outgoing traffic, ensuring nothing dangerous comes in and nothing sensitive goes out. Routers also control access to a home Wi-Fi network occurring through itself, all phones, tablets, laptops, and more.
Many users, however, fail to recognize the importance of securing the router, leading to compromised home network security. When it’s not safeguarded, a network can be vulnerable to criminal activity and cause trouble with credit card details, child safety, bank accounts, and other concerns.
It’s not enough to rely on the basic PC-resident firewalls and antivirus software for protection. All devices in a home network, especially those used for work, should have the latest software updates as a basic requirement. For a stronger defense, some measures you can implement include:
- Changing the default name and password of the home Wi-Fi
Manufacturers often give all their wireless routers the same default name or SSID (Service Set Identifier), like “admin.” When a computer with a wireless connection searches for nearby wireless networks, the computer will display each network that publicly broadcasts its SSID. It’s best to change the SSID to something that won’t disclose any personal information, then disable the network name broadcasting function to dissuade hackers from breaking into the network.
Because manufacturers use a default SSID, hackers can easily guess the pre-set, default password of the wireless routers. After changing the SSID, you must change the password to something difficult for a hacker to guess. The best passwords are at least 20 characters long, featuring uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also consider changing your password regularly to kick off any unwelcome visitors.
- Enabling network encryption
Encryption is a process that takes readable information and converts it into a secret code. It conceals messages from prying eyes while they are in transit between networks. Encrypted data can only be decrypted (or made readable) for the intended recipient.
Almost all wireless routers come with an encryption feature, but it may be turned off by default; turning on your wireless router’s encryption setting can help further secure your network. The most recent and effective type of encryption is WPA2, which guards access to the router by requiring every new device to submit a password before it connects to the network.
- Keeping router firmware up-to-date
Routers operate using a low-level software called “firmware” which controls everything the router does and sets security standards for the network. Like any other software, firmware contains flaws that may become a vulnerability or weak spot for the network — unless it’s quickly fixed through updates from the manufacturer.
Always download and install the latest updates for your system, such as bug fixes and security patches, to ensure no gaps in security are left open to online predators. If you’re lucky, this process is automatic for the router and you will be notified through the configuration app.
- Installing a good network firewall
A firewall is a critical line of defense designed to protect computers from harmful intrusions. Wireless routers generally contain a built-in firewall as well, but it may be turned off when activated for the first time. You can turn on the router firewall in the configuration settings if this is the case. However, if your router doesn’t come with this additional layer of protection, you can easily install a firewall solution to the system to protect it from malicious hacking attempts.
- Using a virtual private network
A virtual private network (VPN) is a group of computers or networks that work together over the Internet. If you’re connected to a VPN, a VPN client is launched on your computer. Whenever you’re logging in with your credentials, the VPN client exchanges keys with another server so they can verify if the other is authentic. This keeps all online communication encrypted and secured from prying outsiders.
3 Tips for Managing Your Remote Setup
While it may take some time before everything goes back to “normal,” you can still have a productive office setup at home. Here are three tips to help you manage your work-from-home setup:
- Check your Internet speed.
As millions of people are staying at home, the Internet infrastructure all over the world is strained due to everyone working, studying, or entertaining themselves at the same time. Test your internet speed on Ookla, Google, and other diagnostic platforms to see if you’re overloading bandwidth. If your connection is too slow, try:
- Closing extraneous or unused open tabs on your browser
- Limiting the number of people who can access the network at the same time
- Upgrading your ISP plan if budget allows
- Switching up work hours to avoid “rush hour”
- Boost your signal.
Tweaking your existing Wi-Fi setup could make a big difference, especially if you haven’t moved your router’s position in years. Try to place the router on a desk or shelf in a central part of the house; you can also try to reboot the router and optimize its settings. Installing a Wi-Fi extender or Wi-Fi repeater may also help amplify an existing signal.
- Utilize your company laptop.
As much as possible, avoid using a personal device for remote work as it may have fewer security controls compared to company-owned hardware. It’s also ideal to use a separate device for work so it’s inaccessible to other people at home. If you have no choice, try to apply office security standards to your personal device. Use the same software provided by the company, follow data protection measures, and avoid engaging in personal activities while working.
Upgrade Your Network Protection With Abacus
In uncertain times, security should remain a priority for your business. Abacus Managed IT Services offers clients a comprehensive suite of services, programs, and customized solutions for a number of IT problems — including security. Consult with Abacus to learn more about our offerings for small and midsize businesses today.