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12 Surprising Office Wi-Fi Killers

Think twice before you set up the office aquarium.
12 Surprising Office Wi-Fi Killers
Image credit: JGI | Tom Grill | Getty Images

Nothing grinds a workplace to a halt like a lack of internet access. Gone are the days of hard-wired desktops in every office. Work environments increasingly support staff and guests with Wi-Fi, which can create a surprising amount of strain on your office wireless network, especially given the rise of devices connecting.

Related: Wi-Fi: The Great Bridge Between Online Personalization and Killer Real-Life Experience 

You might be surprised what everyday items and situations are bringing your network to a crawl. Here are the top 12 common issues impacting every office, no matter how small or large.

1. Tinted glass.

You’d think your Wi-Fi signal would sail right through, but it doesn't. Tinted glass often has metal additives that can heavily absorb Wi-Fi signals. So if your office is full of wall-to-wall windows or glass conference rooms, it’s going to impact your signal.

2. Mirrors.

These are huge Wi-Fi vampires. Mirrors can cut signal strength up to 50 percent because they reflect back the signal. If the bathroom is between the router and your desk, it’s part of the problem.

3. Water.

You may love that aquarium in the office, but water, just like glass, is a massive Wi-Fi killer due to its density. It absorbs and traps the signal. If you’ve ever seen your signal drop at the beach or near large bodies of water, that’s why.

4. Chicken wire.

Metallic mesh -- AKA chicken wire -- is a common construction material, which means your walls are lined with metal. Metal is also a gobbler of your Wi-Fi signal. The way around this is to ensure you have enough equipment to make up the difference. You might need an extender or access point to boost the router signal.

5. BYOD.

Also known as “Bring Your Own Device,” is a huge trend that’s taxing most workplaces. Most routers tap out at 10-20 devices. With today’s proliferation of tablets, smartphones, laptops and wireless office equipment, like your printer or that precious Apple TV in the conference room, bandwidth gets zapped quick. Plan accordingly.

6. Board meetings

We’ve heard more than one horror story of IT staff scrambling as networks crash under the weight of all your board members downloading a 20 MB presentation at the same time, in the same room. Avoid irritating your board. Make sure your bandwidth is up to snuff before the meeting starts. Better yet, give them their own channel.

Related: MIT Researchers Take on Slow Wi-Fi

7. Too many separate Wi-Fi Networks.

It’s not uncommon in some office environments, often without formal IT staff or consults, to jerry rig a system together and load up the office with a several different routers running on different channels with different passwords to increase coverage. Problem is, Wi-Fi networks in close proximity can interfere with each other, let alone the pain of logging on and off networks. Make sure you have someone set up your system so each router or access point is on the right channel for limited interference.

8. Poor spacing.

It’s very important to adequately estimate needs and space equipment throughout the office to ensure a consistent supportive signal. In other words, don’t lock your one router for the whole office in the back cabinet and seat your graphics team near the front, by the glass doors. 

9. Below-grade equipment.

A number of businesses use equipment provided by their ISP or bottom-shelf routers and then run into performance issues. When setting up Wi-Fi for a small business (1-3 employees), as a minimum, invest in a high-end consumer router. When adding more employees, move to business grade at the beginning. The headaches of the network down during the board meeting aren’t worth the little you save going low-end.

10. File cabinets.

Wireless signals degrade going through metal so don’t place your routers or access points in a room filled with file cabinets. It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it happens.

11. Your kitchen.

It might have the snacks, but it also has major appliances that eat away at Wi-Fi strength. Refrigerators and especially microwaves provide interference, so keep equipment out of the range of the kitchen.

12. People. 

Really? Absolutely. The human body is 50-65 percent water, and crowds of people at an office party can be a highly effective barrier to Wi-Fi.  Mount your access point in the ceiling to minimize the chance of interference by your coworkers.

Now that you know the main reasons your office Wi-Fi stinks so badly, you can fix it. More than likely it's due to having underestimated the level of equipment and support your business needs. If you've got more than three people working out of a space, or you open your Wi-Fi up to guests and staff, spring for business-grade equipment.

Related: The Top 5 U.S. Airports With the Fastest Wi-Fi

Unless you work in a small one-room studio, odds are you need a range extender or an access point to distribute the signal throughout the space without it degrading and hanging up that board of directors meeting, or worse, VC pitch. Don't let it happen to you.

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