Network 101: Working from Home and Remote Schooling

As more households are working from home and children are attending school remotely, there are bound to be some major hiccups in connectivity and network strength. We at Overclockers are here to help you diagnose and remedy some of these issues, saving you precious time and headaches.

Before we dive in, here’s a diagram to reference the terminology used while reading this article. Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words.

Home Network Diagram – Source

Devices and Bandwidth

First, we will look at how many devices are being used on a regular basis, also known as streaming devices. The term streaming device refers to a device that is transmitting data (such as audio and/or video files) in a continuous flow over a wired or wireless internet connection. A television playing Netflix or Hulu, a computer using Zoom or YouTube, a phone playing a podcast, and an Xbox for online gaming are just a few examples. The more devices streaming data, the faster the internet speed needs to be. Check out the chart below and call your internet provider to make sure your speed is high enough to cover the number of devices in your home. Having the right speed is a crucial first step in making sure your home network operates smoothly. 

Number of Streaming Devices Download Speed (Mbps)
2 50-100
3 75-150
4 100-200
5 125-250
6 150-300
7 175-350
8 200-400

Example: Devices and Bandwidth

For example, in a household of two adults and one child with one adult working from home, there are at least 4 devices streaming at any given point; a television streaming a show, a work computer streaming Webex, a personal computer streaming YouTube, and at least 1 cellular phone streaming YouTube or Facebook. Our household would be best with at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps), our service provider offers 200 Mbps so that’s the one we opted for to make sure there would be no issues.

Routers and Modems

Second, let’s look at your router and modem. Modems take data from your Internet Service Provider and turn it into a system that your devices can use as the internet. Routers essentially direct the internet from the modem to all of your devices via an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi. For most people with ISP-provided equipment, these 2 items are in one box and look like this

Typical Modem/Router Combo

Consider purchasing a modem and router separately. It is an easy way to extend your Wi-Fi range and be able to use a higher number of devices at once more reliably. Typically, most ISP-provided routers have a limited range, compared to separate consumer routers. Signals working their way through multiple walls cut your signal range further. If you need to use devices throughout your home and it seems like one side of your home doesn’t get a great signal, but you know you have a good router you can also try using a Wi-Fi Extender.

If you can, try to have your major devices that are being used for work and school be wired into your router. Most routers have, at minimum, 2 or 3 Ethernet ports. Ethernet Cables come in multiple lengths to allow for the option of use in separate rooms. If you don’t have an open Ethernet port you can purchase an Ethernet Switch to allow for more ports, such as this NETGEAR GS305 5-Port Gigabit Switch. Wired connections are always much better than wireless.

With children being back to school remotely now, parental controls for the internet are more important than ever. Make sure if you do have children at home the router you purchase has Parental Controls, most of the ones suggested later in this article do have this functionality.

Suggested Internet Modems

Modems are dependent on your ISP but for the most common ISP’s see the chart below. If you have Fiber internet you will need to continue to use the fiber adapter your provider has given you.

Cable internet is more forgiving of the modem you use, but DSL can be picky. Please ensure with your ISP that the DSL modem you choose is compatible with their service. In most DSL modem/router combos you can also disable the built-in router, and use your own from our list of suggested routers below if your ISP won’t allow you to get your own DSL modem.

  DSL (AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier) Cable (Spectrum, Comcast, Xfinity, Cox)
Budget Netis DL4323 ADSL2+ Modem Router NETGEAR CM500 Cable Modem
Mid TP-Link TD-8616 ADSL2+ Modem ARRIS SURFboard SB6183 Cable Modem
Premium NETGEAR DM200-100NAS Broadband DSL Modem ARRIS SURFboard SB8200 Cable Modem

Suggested Budget Wireless Routers (<$100)

These are a few routers that perform well without breaking the bank, but still better than what your ISP gives you.

TP-Link AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router

NETGEAR Nighthawk R6700 Smart Wi-Fi Router

ASUS RT-AC1200 Wi-Fi Router

Suggested Mid-Range Wireless Routers ($100-200)

These routers will perform better than the budget models, providing better range and connectivity.

TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 AX3000 Smart Wi-Fi Router

NETGEAR Nighthawk R7000 Smart Wi-Fi Router

ASUS RT-AX3000 Wi-Fi Router

Suggested Premium Wireless Routers (>$200)

These routers are the top of the line. For households with many users, larger areas to cover, or a demand for the best performance you should look here.

TP-Link AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S Smart Wi-Fi Router

ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Wi-Fi Router

Suggested Wi-Fi 6 Wireless Routers

If you have any Wi-Fi 6 AX certified devices or think you might soon, consider one of these routers.

Budget – TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 AX1500 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Mid-Range – TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 AX3000 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Premium – NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 Wi-Fi 6 Router

Suggested Wi-Fi Extenders

Here are a few Wi-Fi extenders to supplement your current Wi-Fi network’s dead spots. We would typically always recommend either a better router, or a mesh system, but this is the easiest and fastest way to get more range and coverage without having to change your modem and/or router.

Budget – D-Link N300 Wi-Fi Extender

Mid-Range – TP-Link AC750 Wi-Fi Extender

Premium – TP-Link AC1200 Wi-Fi Extender

Wireless Mesh Systems

For those with a bit larger of a budget, there is a newer home Wi-Fi style called a Mesh System that uses two or more devices to blanket your house in Wi-Fi, this option is great for people who know they will be working from home indefinitely and need something a little more robust or those who have a few floors or a lot of square footage in a home to cover.

Here’s a good diagram to help understand how a Wireless Mesh system will cover a large home more efficiently.

Wireless Mesh Visual

Suggested Wireless Mesh Systems

Budget – TP-Link Deco Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System

Mid-Range – Amazon eero mesh Wi-Fi System

Premium – Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD Wi-Fi System

Further Assistance

As always if you have questions or need assistance please check out our Internet, Networking, and Security forum (LINK) as there are a large number of people who can help you out! 

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  1. That picture seems wrong to me, when have Fax machines ever been connected to the internet? Replace the Fax machine picture with 7 Smart phones and Tablets, then add to the Entertainment Console picture another Entertainment Console and 3 Smart TVs and I think you might have a pretty good representation.
    Nice article. I had to upgrade my internet to the Brighthouse 400 Mb speed with all the devices using it and me working from home now. Add to that kids and wife playing internet games all summer and my 100 Mb couldn't handle like I wanted it to. It would "work" but I could definitely feel it get bogged down when someone was downloading a large file or something like that.
    I will add that when buying your modem it might be a good idea to look at the next level up. I was looking at mid range Arris per the Brighthouse recommended list but found the SB8200 for about $10 more at Office Depot. Now if I ever upgrade to the 1G I already have the modem and it works just fine on the 400 Mb I have now.
    That picture seems wrong to me, when have Fax machines ever been connected to the internet? Replace the Fax machine picture with 7 Smart phones and Tablets, then add to the Entertainment Console picture another Entertainment Console and 3 Smart TVs and I think you might have a pretty good representation.

    Mine goes to my router because I use Vonage.
    BugFreak
    Nice article. I had to upgrade my internet to the Brighthouse 400 Mb speed with all the devices using it and me working from home now. Add to that kids and wife playing internet games all summer and my 100 Mb couldn't handle like I wanted it to. It would "work" but I could definitely feel it get bogged down when someone was downloading a large file or something like that.
    I will add that when buying your modem it might be a good idea to look at the next level up. I was looking at mid range Arris per the Brighthouse recommended list but found the SB8200 for about $10 more at Office Depot. Now if I ever upgrade to the 1G I already have the modem and it works just fine on the 400 Mb I have now.
    Mine goes to my router because I use Vonage.

    Agreed, going up in router is almost never an issue. I've been running an SB6183 for quite a few years now over varying speeds of service from TWC/Spectrum.
    Here is my network. Ignore the names for the cable modem, router and switches, I used Packet Tracer to model my network, all but the internet side of the modem is 1gb speed. Only devices that is not 1gb is the laptop and the 2 printers.