With many employees now working from home and students simultaneously doing their distance learning, having a robust home network is very important. Many homeowners are still using the modem or router provided by their internet service provider (ISP), and some may have added some “range extenders” which actually cut the speed in half.

Something we recommend all homeowners to do is purchase a router and place it in a centralized location. From there, either add in access points if there’s existing ethernet wiring, or otherwise consider a mesh network.

To learn more about buying your own modem, setting up a home network and keeping it secure, I emailed David Nguyen, regional product manager for Linksys Business Products at Belkin International. Here’s what he had to say. (What’s more, we tested one of their access points, which you can find in this week’s video.)

(Note: This interview was edited for grammar and style).

Why should homeowners choose to purchase their own modem or router instead of using the one provided by their ISP?

Every ISP is different, but generally, you’ll get a basic modem for a rental fee or a router with Wi-Fi for a higher rental fee. If you plan to stay at that purchased home for a long time, you’ll get better performance and a better user-configuration experience buying your own router, and you’ll save on the monthly rental fee.

You also have full control over your network configuration, whereas you may have to go through the ISP to make changes to your ISP router. You’ll make your money back on the hardware after a few years, get better performance and an easier configuration experience.

Is a home network difficult to setup?

Generally no, but it can get complex depending on your requirements. For example, if you want to set up a Wi-Fi network for a single location, our Linksys Velop series is an easy option for whole-home Wi-Fi with multiple mesh nodes.

If you want to manage multiple locations or homes with a single dashboard or for much larger homes beyond 4,000 square feet, Linksys Cloud Manager is your best option. You can set up a wireless network with Linksys Cloud Manager in under five minutes.

Do you need any special wiring?

With Linksys Velop, you can extend your Wi-Fi network easily by placing more Velop nodes throughout the home. This will create a self-healing wireless mesh network without wires needed. For larger homes, you’ll most likely have Cat5e Ethernet wiring in every room and throughout the home.

For best Wi-Fi coverage and performance, you would use Linksys Cloud Manger with cloud access points throughout the home wired back to a router, so each AP will have a dedicated wired connection back to the network.

When a homeowner is setting up a their home network, what are some important things they should consider?

The right expectations and goals are important. Optimal Wi-Fi coverage is dependent on the environment itself and where you place the Velop node or Cloud AP. Generally, you want to place Wi-Fi equipment in the center of a home, horizontally and vertically. The goal is to reduce the number of walls to the farthest client.

For example — and this is very common — the worst place you can put Wi-Fi is in a network box that’s in a walk-in closet. That’s already one wall guaranteed when the door is closed. That Wi-Fi signal has to then travel through that wall, through the connected bathroom, through the master bedroom, through another hallway and then another wall to a secondary bedroom. That’s five obstacles!

Compared to if you placed the Wi-Fi equipment in the center of the home, then it’s only going through one or two walls to any bedroom.

If you can’t run Cat5e to the center of the home, Linksys Velop will be the best way to cover your home without additional wires. If you have the option to install Cat5e or if this is a new build, please consider putting Cat5e in every room. You never know when you’ll want to wire a Wi-Fi access point, smart TV, surveillance camera or any other smart device in the future.

What recommendations do you have for people with a very large home?

For the best coverage and performance, I would recommend using a wired router (like our LRT214) and as many Cloud APs you need to cover the whole home. It requires more work and configuration, but that one-time effort will give you the best performance.

For example, our Linksys Cloud Manager makes it super simple to create a network configuration and then apply it to an unlimited number of APs, so you don’t have to redo your work over and over no matter how many Cloud APs you want to deploy.

How about an older home?

Linksys Velop will be the best option if there’s no possibility of installing new Cat5e wiring.

What do you recommend for homeowners who are planning on setting up a smart home that may include a number of  security cameras?

As you start adding more and more smart devices, it’s best practice to put them on a separate network where the devices are isolated from each other and only have access to the internet.

You can do that easily with Linksys Cloud Manager by enabling features like “Wireless Client Isolation” and “Isolate Wireless” from Wired LAN. This will ensure that your smart devices can talk to the cloud and internet but can’t interact with anything else. This also ensures optimal security.

Having a router is parallel to locking the front door of your home — it will keep most intruders out. Putting your smart devices in a separate network is like putting those items in a vault inside the home. It acts as another barrier that an intruder would have to overcome it something gets compromised.

What are some best practices for keeping your home network secure?

The above suggestion is key. Using an LRT214 with our Linksys Cloud Manager Cloud APs, you can make up to four completely separate networks so you can segment your devices.

You can have a main network, a guest network, a surveillance camera network and IOT smart devices (like a robot vacuum, thermostat and more). It’s more complex to configure, but it’s worth the effort.

What is the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5.6 GHz, and when should you use each?

For starters, 2.4 GHz is extremely crowded and full of interface, so I generally recommend the lowest channel width (20 MHz) and using it for only legacy devices that don’t have a 5 GHz option. Anything that can support 5GHz, I highly recommend using that instead. The Wi-Fi coverage is less, but the bandwidth is much faster. There’s also generally less interference at that wireless band.

How can you tell who or which devices are connected to your network and accessing the internet?

With Linksys Velop, you can use the Linksys app to easily see who’s connected to the network. With Linksys Cloud Manager, you can use our “cloud portal” to easily view all the Wi-Fi clients on your network.

Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.

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