Most of us have a basic understanding of wireless local area networks (WLAN) or wireless fidelity networks (Wi-Fi). Today we will scratch the service of these systems and introduce you to some of the processes in place for these systems to work effectively and efficiently, specifically within the fraternal housing environment.
There are three main areas of a Wi-Fi system:
1. End User – meaning the devices and components that a member or tenant own.
2. Wi-Fi system – which is the equipment between modem and the end user which could include a switch, firewall, wiring, and access points.
3. Internet Service Provider – which includes the modem and all the systems from the modem to the internet outside of the building.
Each of these areas has their own sub areas of moving parts and issues that can arise and interrupt the process from screen to internet. We will take a closer look and these three areas and the issues that can arise in each area.
User owned devices
User owned devices are varied in their operation and power. From Apple products and Xboxes to tablets and wearable tech, all these devices have some similarities and issues that might slow the connection to the internet. These issues can arise from the amount of data on a hard drive, to the number of programs running on a central processing unit of a specific device to the power of the antenna located in the device to receive and send messages to the access points that are connected to Wi-Fi system.
In addition to the age and use of devices, the network might be saturated with devices on the Wi-Fi network. It is always advisable to turn off devices when not in use and leave cellular devices off the communal Wi-Fi network when not being used as well. These devices will still utilize bandwidth when not being used.
Other items that might be utilized in a home environment also affect the signal between the access point and the end user device. All electrical equipment emits electrical frequencies, and some do it on the same frequency as most Wi-Fi networks, which is 2.4 GHz. When and if possible, switch to a 5 GHz spectrum as the next time someone heats up their Hot Pocket it could disrupt your internet. Other factors to consider are obstructions between the device and the access point that include walls and ceilings between your device and the closest access point will also degrade the signal.
Most of Pi Kappa Phi Properties systems are made up of three components: access points, switch, and firewall. Some of our buildings still maintain their older hard wired ethernet systems as well. These systems are typically in place if you have more that 15-20 men living in the building.
Access Points are devices that are located throughout a building. These are the units that your device will connect to via a Wi-Fi system. Typically, a high-end access point can have around 30-40 devices connected to it and pass up to 2gbps through the access point. Depending on the building and the material used to build the building, a fraternity house that sleeps 40 men can have 8-15 of these devices installed around the chapter house. Access points that are managed also allow Pi Kappa Phi Properties to set a level of bandwidth for each device on the network. 10-15 Mbps is the typical allotment for each device on the network.
Switches are just basically splitters. While some of our switches can be managed over the internet most switches provide an avenue to add more equipment on a network coming from one modem. In a straight-line system, you might have one access point that can be routed to a modem, but by adding a switch between the modem and access points you can add many more access points to the systems (depending on the amount of input ports the switch has).
Firewalls are utilized for a myriad of reasons. The common knowledge of firewalls is that they protect and prevent some data from going through the network. While this is true to an extent, Pi Kappa Phi Properties utilizes firewalls for specific reasons. Firewalls allow us to redirect traffic from our users to different domain name system (DNS) servers when the internet service provider’s servers are getting full or dropping devices for any reason. Firewall also allow the use of static internet protocol (IP) addresses for systems like fire alarms and door access when static internet protocol is not applicable.
Internet Service Providers
Internet service providers (ISP) provide clients like Pi Kappa Phi Properties access to the internet. They provide the infrastructure to the buildings and the modems to hook into. Almost all the properties in Pi Kappa Phi Properties portfolio have at least 1gpbs to the building. Most of the properties are still located on the older coax cable copper systems and of the accounts are also with the business side of the ISP as well which are supposed to provide dedicated lines to the chapter house versus sharing the bandwidth with the neighbors on the residential network.
The ISPs also own and operate the DNS servers at their data centers. These servers assign an IP to each device before allowing the device to connect to the internet and provides a location for the system to locate the device to upload information. Most of these IP addresses are in a dynamic form. This means that when you log a device off the network, the IP address that was being used might be used by a new device logging onto the network. Some issues have arisen since the pandemic started due to the amount of DNS servers being overtaxed by the number of devices being used and not having enough IP addresses to accommodate all the devices. Some ISPs, like Spectrum and Comcast have been slow to upgrade their server inventory. This has caused some slowing of the internet and some drops off the internet even though the device might be connected to the Wi-Fi system.
What can you do if you are experiencing drops or slow internet in the chapter house?
- Make sure that your device is maintained. Determine your CPU usage and clear your cache data.
- Turn off devices you are not using.
- Work with Pi Kappa Phi Properties to track when internet usage is slow. Submit tickets via your Rent Manager Portal http://pkpp.twa.rentmanager.com. (Please indicate where you are in the chapter house and if you can connect to the Wi-Fi. If you are not connected to Wi-Fi check to see if any electronic equipment was being used during the disruption. Include speed tests from sites like www.speedtest.net. Take speed tests with multiple devices if available. Occasionally, we determine that damage has occurred to an access point, or a patch cable has stopped working.)
- Work with Properties, your local property manager, or House Director to reset the modem. This occurs by cutting power to the modem for 30 seconds to a minute. This resets the modem and clears its cache.
- If you are still having issues, then we need to work with the ISP to get a tech out to the building to replace the modem or see if there is an issue with the infrastructure to the building.