For many, home and office are one and the same. The arrangement can cultivate great productivity, save time, and create a flexible work-family balance. On the other hand, it can also mean blurring the boundaries between your living and work space, and sacrificing enterprise-level tech perks like reliable Wi-Fi connectivity. Design your home office by first assessing your technology needs, though, and you can create a personalized space that suits both you and your family's Wi-Fi needs.

Why Does the Network Feel Slow?

Consistent slowdowns on your network can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint, especially since more than one problem may be occurring at the same time. It could be as simple as outdated hardware—for example, an old laptop that doesn’t support the newest 802.11ac standard or a desktop with a slow processor and inadequate memory. Simultaneous Wi-Fi activities could also be the culprit, whether in the form of multiple apps running on a single device or lots of devices trying to pull data at the same time from a single network connection. The location of your router plays a role in the network’s speed as well; obstructions (like walls or floors) and other wireless devices (like cordless phones and baby monitors) can affect its signal strength.

Sharing an Internet Connection

Just like a traditional office, a business that runs from the home relies on Internet connectivity for everything from video conferencing to processing credit card transactions. However, home offices also have to share the Internet connection with the rest of the house, which can be difficult when the kids are having multi-hour Netflix binges or playing online video games in the next room. The bottom line? The more employees and family members on the network, the more competition there is for bandwidth—and the slower your business runs. The good news is, there are a number of ways you can improve your network speed.

Select the Best Router for Your Needs

Wi-Fi adds flexibility to your work life, but it’s important to remember that not all Wi-Fi networks are created equal. A standard router can only send information to one device at a time, regardless of how much data you've purchased from your ISP. That means every laptop, smartphone, streaming TV, and gaming console on your home network is actually taking turns transmitting data. While you may not be aware of this continuous switching among devices, you'll see the effects in the form of slower downloads, dropped signals, and choppy video streams.

The average household has eight devices in use at one time, so when you add in the additional devices needed to run a business, the competition for Wi-Fi becomes fierce. If you have a home office in a household with heavy Wi-Fi traffic, opt for a router with the latest technology: MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output). Instead of pelting bursts of connectivity to one device at a time, MU-MIMO pushes a continuous stream of data to multiple computers, phones, and tablets on your network. As a result, devices don’t have to queue up in the wait for a signal, which means your network runs faster and is better able to handle simultaneous, bandwidth-heavy activities. When your kids are dominating the Wi-Fi connection and you have a big video conference in five minutes, MU-MIMO becomes a necessity, not just a perk.

Balance the Network between Wired and Wireless

MU-MIMO upgrades aren’t the only consideration when it comes to optimizing your home office network. The way you’re connecting everything is also important, and sometimes a wired connection is just a smarter choice. If you’ve got tabletop devices that are stationary, try connecting them over Ethernet to free up the Wi-Fi for mobile devices like your tablet or smartphone. By wiring up your desktops, VoIP phones, Smart TVs, and gaming consoles, you’ll bump up the connection’s overall reliability and speed, and lessen the load on your router. In turn, Wi-Fi traffic will become more readily available for wireless devices, and your entire network will run smoother. Don’t worry if you run out of ports on the router—you can always add a network switch to expand your available Ethernet ports, or use USB Ethernet adapters to help upgrade your PCs to gigabit speeds.

Other Devices to Consider

USB Wi-Fi Adapters

The downside of MU-MIMO is that it only works with devices that support its enhanced technology, so in order to take full advantage of MU-MIMO’s benefits, you’ll also need to ensure your devices are optimized. That doesn’t necessarily mean expensive replacements for all of your existing equipment, though. With an affordable USB Wi-Fi adapter, you can boost the PCs you already own to MU-MIMO levels with a simple plug and play device. All it requires is an open, standard USB 2.0 port. Consult the table below to see what kind of speed your outdated PC can achieve with a USB W-Fi adapter.

Wi-Fi Range Extenders

A MU-MIMO range extender will enhance a multi-device network even further. By repeating the signal coming from your router, a range extender broadens the scope and strength of your Wi-Fi connection so it covers more of your home, overcoming signal loss caused by obstructions and eliminating pesky dead zones. That means you can work where you’re most productive—near the fridge, in the living room, on your back porch—and you won’t lose connectivity as you move from one space to another.

Block Non-Work-Related Sites

Once you’ve got your network up and running, you can start to think about those extra features, such as blocking risky or non-work-related sites. There are a number of sites that present threats to classified company data, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing services and domains offering mature content. Prevent the breach by configuring your router to block specific URLs—in turn, devices using your network will also be blocked. Use your Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account to enable website blocks by keyword, URL or IP address. Your Smart Wi-Fi account can also help you prioritize your devices based on the time of day, control which messaging apps computers on your network use, and even configure these limits to specific devices during certain hours. This way, you can ensure that your work time is as productive and efficient as possible.

Set Up Guest Access

From corporate offices to your favorite coffee shop down the street, nearly every business offers Wi-Fi access as a perk to visitors. Why not offer your guests the same? You wouldn’t want to grant them access to everything residing on your main network (computers, home office files, confidential data, etc.)—that risks the security of your sensitive information and could expose you to malware and other threats. Instead, enable your router's Guest Access to create a separate space where your visitors can safely connect.