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COVID-19 has been a challenge to many people, both financially and emotionally. Lifestyles have changed. Work routines have been disrupted. Scores of jobs in various sectors were eliminated. In recent months, faced with the new reality, hundreds of thousands of people have decided to turn a crisis into opportunity, starting their own businesses to fill an acute need in the economy – with their knowledge and skills.

What are the first few things they need to quickly set up? They need a network and get to business. That goes for all starters. for Johnny who is starting an on-line personal trainer classes, for Suzie who is delivering wedding planning service on-line, for Arturo who offers on-line science tutoring to middle school students.

Let me outline a quick two-step foxtrot on how to set up an effective WiFi network for you to jump-start your dream.

Step 1: Identify the Need

For almost all new entrepreneurs, you will be running your start-up business from home. An effective WiFi network is one of the most fundamental tools you need in delivering services to your customers, which is often done through video conferencing.

Therefore, the first thing to identify is what sort of WiFi network you need. Does your current WiFi network meet your current needs, such as streaming from Netflix and Prime Video, playing online games, etc., by all members in the household?

If the answer is yes, you are in good shapes

We recommend that you set up your own WiFi network within your home network, to create an independent WiFi for uninterrupted and uncontested WiFi network for your business operation. Let’s call this the “Need to Augment”.

If the answer is no, we recommend that you replace your WiFi network throughout your home with a WiFi system that is high performance, and yet capable of creating a subnetwork just for your business.

Let’s call this the “Need to Overhaul”.

Step 2: Pick a Solution Based on Need

Augment Your Current Network
If the path given by Step 1 is “Need to Augment”, your next question is, “How far is your workspace away from the internet gateway?” If your workspace is physically near the internet gateway, my recommendation is that you get a desktop access point. Pick a desktop access point that does not require additional hardware, software or even cloud based controllers, and one that has multiple built-in gigabit Ethernet ports so that you can connect wired devices such as a scanner-printer, and a networked attached storage. You simply connect the access point to the internet gateway by an Ethernet cable, from the “Internet or WAN” port in the access point, to one of the LAN ports in the internet gateway.

If your workspace is in a far corner of the house that cannot be easily reached by an Ethernet cable, then you will need a Gigabit Ethernet Network switch. Connect one of the Ethernet ports to the LAN in the internet gateway, and another Ethernet port to a WiFi access point. I recommend that you choose an Ethernet switch that is also a PoE switch (Power-over-Ethernet), one that delivers power over its Ethernet cable, thus removing the need for a power cord in the access point. Needless to say, your access point will need to be a PoE access point to avail yourself of that special feature. The Gigabit Ethernet switch also serves as a reliable and high-speed network connection to your wired devices, such as a printer, or a network-attached storage NAS.

Overhaul Your Current Network
If the path given by Step 2 is to overhaul your network, meaning, your current WiFi network is barely enough for your current household needs, such as watching Netflix or Prime Video, playing internet-based computer games, or is having difficulty reaching certain parts of the house, you need a whole new system. I recommend a high performance, multi-satellite WiFi system.

Almost all WiFi systems on the market give you a range of coverage area, and a speed. Pick the one whose coverage area is appropriate for the size of your home. For speed, you can never go wrong picking the highest speed WiFi system. You can tell the speed of the WiFi system by reading the specification, or by reading the number behind “AC” or “AX”, AC for WiFi 5 and AX for WiFi 6, which usually accompanies the product name. The speed indicator is widely embraced by the industry. An extra precaution to take is to make sure that the speed grade “AC” and “AX” represent one unit in the system, but not the whole system. Stay away from vendors who do not make a clear representation of the speed. Any discrepancy from the AC or AX speed numbers in the headline and the detailed description is a cause for concern and suspect.

A WiFi System is usually comprised of a router or the base unit, and a number of satellites. You want to place the router unit close to the internet gateway, connected by an Ethernet cable. Your satellite units can be placed anywhere within your house, as long as it is well within the range of the base unit. The satellites and the base unit are connected by WiFi. You should place one of the satellites in or near your workspace.

Because the router or base unit and the satellites are connected the WiFi, I recommend that you pick a WiFi system that has a dedicated “backhaul”, i.e., a dedicated WiFi connection between the router and the satellite for maximum and uncontested throughput. The keyword that you should look for in a product’s specification is tri-band, i.e. 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands for client devices, and yet another 5GHz band dedicated for backhaul.

I recommend that you choose a WiFi system in which the satellite unit includes multiple Ethernet ports. You will always have wired network devices that you want to connect to the network, sooner or later.

Fortress or Leaky Bucket — Consideration of Security

We are all concerned about data security and privacy. The degree of security is like a slide ruler that can be as secure as a bank vault to as leaky as an open-air farmer’s market. As you are just starting your business, you want to begin with something simple but still offering a fair degree of security. That would be SSID. Be sure to buy an access point, or a WiFi system that offers at least three SSIDs. You may designate one SSID for your work, and the other two for your household, one for your visiting friends, or even one for your Internet of Things, such as your surveillance cameras.

As your business grows and starts to accumulate your digital properties, such as your client and supplier information, your tradecraft, etc. you will start putting that data in devices that are permanently connected to the network, such as a desktop computer, or network-attached storage. SSID, which is a good way to protect wireless devices, will no longer be sufficient. You will need to look for WiFi devices that support VLAN (virtual LAN) features. Using VLAN, you put your work-related devices on a separate network designated for business, thus separating those devices from the rest of the home network.

NETGEAR Solutions for the Entrepreneur’s Start-up Kit

As indicated in the diagram on the right, there are two excellent NETGEAR access points for you to choose from.

The WAX204 is a desktop access point that can be placed on any surface. The clear advantage of this device is that it includes four additional Ethernet ports for your wired devices.

The WAX214 is a low profile, lightweight access point. Its weight of 0.84lb (380g) allows you to use simple double-sided adhesives to hang it on the wall. Screws and mounting harness are included if you choose to attach the device to the wall more permanently and securely.

The Orbi Pro WiFi 6 System is the ultimate performance and secured home WiFi network system. The SXK80 Family (which the SXK80B3, with one wireless router and 2 satellites is a member of) features an industry-leading 2.4Gbps dedicated backhaul while having 3.6Gbps client device connection at each of the router and satellite units. Use SXK80 for your whole home, all-purpose WiFi; or use it exclusively for your business if your business deserves an extra degree of security. The SXK80 has four SSIDs, and each SSID is mapped to a VLAN tied to the Ethernet ports.

Conclusion

Not mentioned in the above sections is the choice of WiFi 5 vs. WiFi 6. With few exceptions, there is no reason to stay with WiFi 5. The price gap between WiFi 5 and WiFi 6 is closing, particularly represented by the products mentioned in this article. WiFi 6 gives you a major boost in throughput performance, coverage area, data security and future device interoperability.

Starting your business is full of excitement and anxiety. Don’t let WiFi be one of the sources of your anxiety. Come visit https://www.netgear.com/business/wifi to learn the basics in building a WiFi network in minutes to jump-start your business.

Doug Cheung

Senior Product Line Manager, Wireless and Storage

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