We know that access points allow us to connect to the Internet, but how exactly do they do it, what are their advantages and disadvantages, and how can you set up an access point at home? These and other questions are the topics of this article.
Wireless Access Point
Wireless access points are everywhere these days. In any larger city around the world, it has become impossible to walk a block without stumbling on at least one or two access points.
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What Is a Wireless Access Point?
A wireless access point, commonly called just access point (AP), is a networking device that allows easy access to the Internet over the air. Most access points look very similar to routers. In fact, modern routers can usually function as access points. Internet Service Providers typically give their customers a router with the functionality of an access point to make the set up simpler.
If they gave them a router without the access point functionality, the customers would have to connect a dedicated access point to the router to enjoy wireless Internet access, which would be highly inconvenient and beyond the expertise of most home users.
The term wireless access point is often confused with the term hotspot. A wireless access point covers an area with a WiFi signal, and the area in which one can connect to the Internet over the air is called hotspot.
Before WiFi networks, it was quite problematic to connect new devices to the Internet because each new device had to be connected with a wire to an Internet-connected router. Of course, students or office workers seldom carried their own personal electronic devices, so the situation wasn’t nearly as bleak as it would be today if we didn’t have wireless access points.
After the explosion of the smartphone market, fast, ubiquitous Internet access become the norm and so did WiFi access points. Most people manage their own WiFi access point at home, but not many know how to achieve the best signal strength and the best download and upload speeds possible.
Is One WiFi Access Point Enough?
As you’ve most likely experienced numerous times first-hand, the WiFi signal has a limited range and is affected by various obstacles, such as walls, and interference, such as your neighbor’s WiFi network.
To optimize your home wireless network, the first step is to discover where the signal is the weakest. Just try to remember all the places in your home where web take forever to lead and where online videos constantly buffer. To get rid of these zones of a weak signal, you need to change the placement of your wireless access point to cover your entire home with an evenly strong WiFi signal.
But moving the WiFi access point randomly could easily make everything much worse. That’s where WiFi analysis and visualization tools such as NetSpot come in. With NetSpot, you can quickly create a visual map of your home WiFi network and see where the signal is the strongest and where it is the weakest.
You may discover that the half of your home closer to the router is covered with a very strong signal, while the other half leaves a lot to be desired. In that case, the solution is simple: move the access point to the center of your home to achieve even coverage.
In some cases, you may discover that your WiFi access point isn’t sufficiently strong to cover all parts of your home no matter where you place it. The solution? Either buy a new access point or install a WiFi booster. Some of the best wireless access points on the market are strong enough to cover even a large apartment or a smaller house, and they are loaded with useful extra features.
WiFi boosters, on the other hand, can quickly extend the range of any wireless access point, but they create an additional network which doesn’t benefit you unless you manually switch to it. In both cases, NetSpot can help you verify whether you newly purchased access point or a booster has done its job.
How to Set Up a WiFi Access Point?
Every wireless access point setup procedure should emphasize security above everything else. When a wireless access point is connected to a physical network that bases its security on physical access control and trusts all the users on the local network, anybody within range of the wireless access point can attach to the network and potentially do damage.
The essential solution to WiFi access point security is encryption. Modern access points support a range of encryption mechanisms, with the WPA2 being the most robust. Some older access points support only the WEP encryption scheme, which has been proven insufficiently secure against modern attacks.
Always make sure to pick a password that can’t be easily guessed. It’s best if you keep this password to yourself and create a separate guest wireless network with a simpler password that you can easily give out to friends and guests who come to visit.
Apart from security, you also want to pay attention to the channel your wireless network is broadcasted on. NetSpot’s discover mode can collect every detail about surrounding wireless networks and presents the collected data as an interactive table, allowing you to see which wireless channels are busy the most.
If you can, switch to a channel that doesn’t see much traffic to enjoy faster download and upload speeds and better response times.
Finally, make sure to avoid placing your wireless access point close to electronic devices that might interfere with it, and always use a wireless analysis tool such as NetSpot to optimize the coverage.
With the right tool for the job and the basic know-how of what to do, you can set up a WiFi access point just as well as a professional technician and solve most networking problems you may come across.
WiFi analyzer app runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10/11) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wireless network adapter.
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A wireless access point is a networking device that allows you to easily connect to the Internet over the air. An access point is not a hotspot — it covers the area with a wireless signal, and that area that you can have your connection within, is called a hotspot.
An access point usually connects to a router via Ethernet as a standalone device, but it can also be built into a router. An AP can look a lot like a router, but there are more compact antenna-less designs too.
Use NetSpot app to quickly create a visual and comprehensive heat map of your WiFi. You will be able to immediately see the areas with a strong consistent signal as well as the areas that have a very weak signal and need some boosting.
We’d recommend performing a WiFi analysis with an app like NetSpot first. This will allow you to see which areas in your space are lacking the WiFi signal strength. With NetSpot it will be quite easy to determine whether you need to move your router around to achieve a better signal, or add a WiFi booster or repeater to your home or office.
A wireless signal optimization is a multistep process, but it isn’t as hard as it may sound. First off try to see if you can make it better by placing your existing equipment differently: your WiFi router may perform better on an elevated surface farther from physical obstacles and various appliances emitting electro-magnetic waves (e.g. a microwave).
You can also try using a WiFi survey app like NetSpot to determine the weak WiFi spots in your home or office that might need a boost. NetSpot can also help you determine the most crowded WiFi channels that surrounding networks are using and decide which channel to switch to for an optimized WiFi signal.
If you want to get more information about Wi-Fi, check out the following articles about Wi-Fi routers, the best apps for wireless networking, WiFi signal, etc.