Wi-Fi 6: The Next-Generation Wireless Standard

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax) is the next-generation wireless standard that is faster than the current king, 802.11ac.

More than speed, it will provide better performance in congested areas, from stadiums to your own device-packed home. Fortunately, it’s coming soon, slotted for a 2019 release.

Wi-Fi will now have version numbers as well. Doing away with those confusing Wi-Fi standard names like “802.11ac,” Wi-Fi names will be replaced with user-friendly names like “Wi-Fi 5” and “Wi-Fi 6.”

Faster Wi-Fi
As usual, the latest Wi-Fi standard offers faster data transfer speeds. If you’re using a Wi-Fi router with a single device, maximum potential speeds should be up to 40% higher with Wi-Fi 6 compared to Wi-Fi 5.

Wi-Fi 6 accomplishes this through more efficient data encoding, resulting in higher throughput. Mainly, more data is packed into the same radio waves. The chips that encode and decode these signals keep getting more powerful and can handle the extra work.

This new standard even increases speeds on 2.4GHz networks. While the industry has shifted to 5GHz for less interference, 2.4GHz is still better at penetrating solid objects. And there shouldn’t be as much interference for 2.4GHz as old cordless telephones and wireless baby monitors are retired.

Longer Battery Life
A new “target wake time” (TWT) feature means your smartphone, laptop, and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices should have longer battery life, too.

When the access point is talking to a device (like your smartphone), it can tell the device exactly when to put its Wi-Fi radio to sleep and exactly when to wake it up to receive the next transmission.

This will conserve power, as it means the Wi-Fi radio can spend more time in sleep mode. And that means longer battery life.

This will also help with low-power “Internet of Things” devices that connect via Wi-Fi.

Better Performance in Crowded Areas
Wi-Fi tends to get bogged down when you are in a crowded place with many Wi-Fi enabled devices fighting to receive and send data. Picture a busy stadium, airport, hotel, mall, or even a crowded office with everyone connected to Wi-Fi.

The new Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, incorporates many new technologies to help with this.

Wi-Fi 6 can now divide a wireless channel into a large number of subchannels. Each of these subchannels can carry data intended for a different device.

This is achieved through something called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access, or OFDMA. The Wi-Fi access point can talk to more devices at once.

The new standard also has improved MIMO, or Multiple In/Multiple Out.

This involves multiple antennas, which let the access point talk to multiple devices at once.

With Wi-Fi 5, the access point could talk to devices at the same time, but those devices couldn’t respond at the same time. Wi-Fi 6 has an improved version of multi-user, or MU-MIMO, that lets devices respond to the wireless access point at the same time.

This wouldn’t just apply to busy public places, but also at home if you have many devices connected to Wi-Fi or if you live in a dense apartment complex.

Internet Speed Loss: Get What You Pay For

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Long gone are the days where you accepted the speed that your dial-up connection allowed.

I remember when 56k modems were exciting. I can easily recall my first cable Internet connection. It was a lightning fast 3mbps (megabytes per second, in case you were wondering).

With gigs and megs, people talk about data and speeds sometimes as if they are interchangeable. They aren’t. Let’s get that clarification out of the way.

Thanks largely to cell phone data plans, people think in terms of how many gigs they have. What that means is that you can transmit a certain amount of data during your monthly cycle, such as 10 gigs.

The megabytes per second phrase is used to describe the rate at which data transfers. This is your Internet speed.

So now that we know what we are talking about, let’s talk speeds and how to maximize them.

As I mentioned before, I remember getting a 3mbps connection. It was lightning fast compared to the dial-up connections that had been the standard.

As times change and technology becomes more demanding, old connection speeds just won’t cut it. Web pages become more complex and the amount of data transferred goes up as well.

In order to have the same type of experience and to avoid long loading times, expectations for higher Internet speeds continue to grow.

My home 25mbps connection came and went; now, I have speeds up to 150mbps. There are speeds much higher available, but before you go paying for more speed than you need, make sure you are getting what you pay for.

Running Internet speed tests is a good place to start. You can use a website, like speedtest.net, to check your upload and download speed, as well as ping.

Ping is used to measure latency, or what you may classify as lag. Ping is typically measured in milliseconds and is the measured response time after sending out a request on the Internet.

The download speed is the number typically advertised and the number that is most important to your connection. So you pay for 150mbps. You run a speed test over Wi-Fi and you are only getting 80mbps. What could be the cause?

First, the best way to test your speed would be over an Ethernet cable directly connected to your modem or router. Check your speed over a wired connection to rule out any loss caused by the modem.

If you are experiencing lower than expected speeds while wired to your modem, you may need to contact your service provider. If you are getting the correct speeds while wired, there are a few possible causes.

The most likely culprits of speed loss are the devices between your modem and computer or other device. Wi-Fi and regular routers, especially those that are a little older, often have a maximum speed set at 100mbps. You may even see 10/100 on the router, indicating its 100mbps speed.

Having one of these devices is going to cost you one-third of your potential speed whether you are wired in or not.

Having quality devices to distribute your connection is as important to speed quality as the connection itself.

There are many other factors that can contribute to speed loss. Too many Wi-Fi networks in close proximity can even cause interference. While the possible causes of speed loss can vary, one thing that does not change is that you want to get what you pay for.

Browsing The Internet In Safety

Evan Schendel is a help desk specialist for Tech Experts.

Browsing the Internet safely comes with many hurdles. Not all of them are obvious, however. These hurdles are numerous and potentially dangerous, but with the proper knowledge and mindfulness, they can be avoided quite easily.

Viruses and Spyware

The Internet is a minefield of harmful applications and criminals trying to take anything they can, but these attempts can be counteracted.

A user must always watch out for suspicious links or websites. Some websites, though legitimate-looking enough, may be spoofed or fake, hiding malicious code or something equally devious.

Hints to these websites being fake can lie in any aspect of the page, but most commonly, it is a slightly different URL or domain name, typically off by only a letter or two.

The viruses dwelling in pop-ups usually attempt to scare users into clicking their product and downloading the malware or spyware-stuffed application linked in the pop-up.

Spyware can not only steal information input while loaded onto a system, but also slows the system to a crawl and tends to be easy to pick up. Simply navigating to a poisoned web page or opening a suspicious e-mail can infect a workstation with spyware.

The real dangers lie in file-sharing sites, where any file could be dangerous. When downloading any application, evaluate it carefully and make fully sure that not only the site is legitimate, but also that the application is safe too.

Preventative measures do exist, and any workstation should have an anti-virus and anti-spyware application installed and running to prevent most malicious applications from doing any serious damage.

Phishing and Scams

Viruses aren’t the only dangers that come with browsing the Internet. Many scams plague the Internet, preying on people uneducated about their existences.

Older scams were typically through e-mail, with scammers posing as long-lost relatives or people who could offer the victim a large sum of money, but only if they helped them out with a fraction of what they claimed they could pay the victim.

While it seems silly that these scams could work, many fall prey to the empathetic connection one might have when speaking a person in apparent need. These scams, while still common, occur less and less while newer and more sophisticated traps are being developed.

Phishing attempts also come in a method previously discussed – pop-ups. These can have dangerous-looking warnings, alerting you that your machine is infected with a petrifying number of viruses and scaring the user into clicking their links or graphics.

These links or graphics can lead down a dangerous path, including giving the scammers your credit card information or worse.

In the event a pop-up like this occurs, do not panic or give in.

If it is a pop-up, close the window and make certain you click nothing else on the page. If it is a re-direct to a suspicious page, close that as well, and immediately scan the system for any viruses or spyware just to be safe.

No computer is untouchable, but best practices and well-implemented safety measures can make a computer system much more secure, letting you browse the Internet without fear.

In addition to anti-virus programs, constant system updates and application patches can keep any potentially dangerous backdoors or vulnerabilities covered and safe.

With all of this information kept in mind, falling prey to viruses, spyware, and scams will be far less likely and sites will seem much safer.

Is It Time You Had A Failover ISP?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

So, you may want to ask – what is a failover ISP? Let’s not over complicate it: it is exactly what it sounds like. A failover ISP is a backup Internet connection through a secondary Internet service provider.

This means paying two monthly bills, for two Internet connections. Strong selling point? Probably not for most people. So what is the appeal? Is it something that will be that useful? First, we would need to know a few things.

How much of your business relies on the Internet? Sure, a quick 10 minute outage is an inconvenience, but most businesses will survive, albeit with different levels of comfort and success.

What happens if there is an extended outage? Can you operate an entire day without an Internet connection? How much money would you lose from being offline for an entire business day?

While the answers to these questions will vary, the fact is there are a growing number of daily business operations that utilize an Internet connection.

VoIP phones? No Internet, no phones. Credit card processing? Unless you use an analog telephone line, that’s out too. Rely on email?

Your phone may be capable, but is that something you want to be stuck doing for an extended period? The fact is, more and more, we really on a stable Internet connection.

What impact does lost time have on your daily operation? While I touched on some of the basics here, think about how you could function without a connection. For some people, it just isn’t possible.

If you are a financial institution that utilizes an offsite financial database, you rely on a connection to service your customers. If you are an insurance company that sends and receives quote information over the Internet and take payments through online processing, you can’t operate.

If you have an office with all VoIP phones and every employee utilizes online tools and services, you can’t operate. Or maybe you are a healthcare provider that needs a connection for patient insurance?

You will have to make some choices about losing a day if any of these apply to you. This is a reality and, in some cases, a gamble.

This just isn’t something we need right now.

Understandable for a lot of businesses out there. There are different needs for different business types.

Restaurants, for instance, probably couldn’t accept credit or debit cards if they lost connection. During a temporary outage, you can relay to your customers that you can only accept cash.

If you have a few users and work from a laptop, you can tether your mobile connection. Whatever the case, it isn’t something everyone needs.

Isn’t it just wasted money if my connection never drops out? Not necessarily. With some good IT work, you can route different Internet traffic through your two ISPs.

Consider it like load-balancing. You can also have it set up that if one of your two networks drop, the other one connects automatically. Again, lots of options are available to you.

Think you need a failover ISP?

There are places where you may not have the option of multiple providers, but in most business areas, there are different options available.

So what happens if you do have a second connection? How do you connect to your backup? Is it automatic?

Your IT department or managed service provider, like Tech Experts, can set that up for you. There are many options depending on your specific setup, but being covered against Internet service outages is universal.

Easy And Common Steps To Resolve Internet Issues

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

The Internet is key in almost all that we do on computers. A computer without Internet would have limited use — not only because of the browser, but because many programs require the connection to function.

That’s why when we are right in middle of working and we lose Internet, we can get very frustrated very quickly. Luckily, there are a few things you can try to potentially restore your Internet with minimal time and effort.

Calling your Internet service provider or your IT techs can result in an issue taking longer to resolve as someone may have to drive out to your business or you have to wait for the next available phone representative. Why wait when, most likely, you can fix your own Internet in about 15 minutes or less with minimal experience?

However, before we talk about how to bring back the Internet, we must talk about terminology and devices.

The first device that handles your Internet from the outside of your building is the Internet modem. Your modem usually has your Internet provider’s logo on it and is plugged in by a cord going outside (usually through a wall). You also need to know what a router is. A router plugs into all the computers with either wired or wireless connections. Sometimes, the modem is also a router when it’s a two-in-one device.

Finally, you should know what a firewall device is. Firewalls are usually a box that is plugged in between the router and modem, protecting your network. That said, not every business has a firewall.

Now that you have the basic terminology, we can potentially fix the Internet. First of all, if you lose your connection to the Internet, try a reboot of your workstation.

If the reboot does not work, see if anyone else has Internet. If it is just you that’s lost connection, try to see if you can push your Internet wire (Ethernet cable) into your computer. Sometimes, the connection can become loose and that’s all there is to the problem.

If you are using a wireless connection, turn off your Wi-Fi with a button on your computer and turn it back on. If your Internet is not back, you might have to contact your IT. If no one has Internet, take a look at the modem. The modem usually has lights showing the status of the Internet connection. If it shows that there is no Internet, try to unplug the power from it and wait 15 seconds and plug it back in.

The modem will take time, potentially 10 or 15 minutes, but you will see if the Internet connection comes back. If the modem does have Internet, try to unplug the firewall (if you have one), then plug it back in after 15 seconds. If the Internet still is out after 15 minutes, try to do the same thing with the router by unplugging and plugging the power back in. If the Internet is still out for everyone, you probably have to call your Internet service provider as there could be an outage in the area. Most of the time when the Internet goes out, following these steps can likely bring back the Internet connection. This is especially true if you are at home.

Hopefully, following these steps can resolve your lost Internet connection. Sometimes, your equipment essentially needs a restart to get things back into working order. Should you need further help, we at Tech Experts have you covered!

Do You Have Internet Privacy At Work?

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

Sometimes, when there’s a break or the work day is slow, it can be tempting to check on a couple different websites. In doing this, would anyone know what websites were visited? Other than the people around, who else would know what sites might have been visited? It may come at a surprise that there could be many different people later on – or even immediately – that find out about the websites that were visited.

It is common for workplaces to have a firewall that prevents certain websites from being visited. Along with blocking certain websites, firewalls usually keep track of all the different websites that have been visited and by who.

Any time a website is visited that has been blacklisted (blocked), this usually triggers an alert to the IT department or management, so they can look over who tried to connect to a blacklisted site. From there, if IT or management feel it is necessary, they could look over the entire history of websites that were visited by a user or a group of users.

Now, let’s say for some odd reason that the business does not have a firewall or other device that keeps records of websites visited – could websites that were visited still be discovered?

Well, the computer someone uses also keeps records of websites that they have been visiting, which can be accessed by IT.

Some clever users might be able to remove their footprints from their workstation computer, but they may not have access to something like that.

There is another way that websites visited from a workplace can be tracked without a firewall or looking into the computer files.

If the websites visited warrant any legal action or an investigation is happening at the company, the ISP (Internet Service Provider) can release any and all records of websites visited and exact information of what was done. There is no way to get around this as you need an ISP to use the internet.

There are even more ways to find out what websites are being visited than what was mentioned here. In short, if someone at the office is using the work Internet, it is more than possible that every website visited is being kept track of in one way or another.

If you follow the rules of your workplace and visit only the type of websites allowed by the work place, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. As a rule of thumb, you should only visit sites and do things that you don’t mind the public or workplace knowing about. If you ever see “NSFW” (Not Safe for Work), do not visit or have anything to do with it while on the work Internet.

Only surf the Internet when you are allowed to surf the internet. Don’t visit websites or open emails where the main site or email sender is unknown. With these tips in mind and a better awareness of how a person can be tracked on a business network, you can make better choices while on the company’s Internet.

What Can I Do To Strengthen My Wifi Signal?

A weak WiFi signal in certain areas of your house could limit where you do your work and enjoy your entertainment activities, such as streaming films music or playing online games. This is actually a common issue with a couple of relatively easy fixes that will improve your wireless Internet connection throughout your house.

The first option is to replace the antenna on your router with a taller one. If your router has a built-in antenna, you can likely add an external one and see a marked increase in signal quality. There are two main types of antennae: omnidirectional and directional. An omnidirectional antenna transmits in all directions, while you can point a directional antenna where you need to strengthen the signal without making it easier for others to latch onto your WiFi. The other alternative to improve your wireless signal is to install a range extender, particularly if the area that requires the strongest signal is behind thick walls or is relatively small.

Should Your Business Get A Backup Internet Connection?

With most business operations tied to the Internet, it is important to consider a backup plan in the event that your Internet connection goes down.

A host of things can cause issues with Internet service from natural disasters to provider caused issues, and unfortunately, those are beyond your control.

Choosing whether or not your business should have a backup Internet connection, however, is within your power.

You should first identify how much your business depends on the Internet for its operations when making this decision. In other words, could your business operate, if the Internet was to go down for a few hours without suffering a significant monetary loss? What about for a few days?

Chances are that your business would at least operate at a disadvantage without another way to access the Internet. If that is not the case, deliberating about backup connections may not be your best use of time.

For the rest of the business world, however, the real question lies in what kind of backup Internet connection you should seek.

Most experts will agree that it is wise to have your backup connection one notch lower than your primary one.

For instance, if your primary Internet connection is fiber, your secondary connection could be a T1 line. If your primary is a T1 line, try DSL or cable for your secondary.

That way, you’re not making a huge downward leap such as from fiber to dial-up, and your employees wouldn’t be at too much of a disadvantage.

This approach also takes into account your business’ budget. Your secondary connection will be a little less expensive than your primary while still being somewhat close in capability.

You’ll also need to make sure that your firewall has the capability to support more than one Internet connection. Most of the firewalls we recommend to clients include this as an option; however, the consumer grade routers sold at big box stores rarely offer this as an option.

Another important feature is to make sure your firewall can automatically detect outages, and switch Internet connections to keep you up and running without manually having to switch connections.

Internet Security: Beware Of “Malvertising”

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

As if Internet use wasn’t already troubled with cyber perils, users now have to add “malvertising” to the list of things from which they need to protect themselves.

“Malvertising,” like the name suggests, means “ads that contain malware.” Some mal-ads aren’t dangerous unless you click on them – but others can do “drive-by downloads,” sneaking their malware onto your computer simply because you’re viewing the page on which the ad appears.

While most malvertising is on websites, it can also show up on other ad-displaying apps, such as Facebook, Skype, some email programs, and many games.

The reason that malvertising is more of a problem than other malware approaches is that it can be spread through online advertising delivery networks like Google DoubleClick to legitimate sites that users routinely visit, like the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Yahoo, as well as routinely-used mobile apps that show ads. Malware-bearing ads can be “injected” either by hacking ads at the provider end or by buying and providing mal-ads. In most cases, there’s no way for a user to tell just by looking that an ad has been compromised.

The Potential Damage
The dangers of advertising-delivered malware are the same as those from malware you get any other way. Malware can steal account usernames and passwords, bank and credit card information, and other sensitive data.

It can encrypt your data and “hold it for ransom.” It can, in turn, infect other computers on your network and turn your computer into a “zombie,” spewing out spam and malware to the Internet.

July_2015_MalvertisingLike other viruses and malware, malvertisements take advantage of security vulnerabilities on users’ computers and mobile devices. These may be anywhere from the operating system, to web browsers and other applications, to add-ons and extensions like Java, JavaScript, and Flash.

How do you know if your computer has been infected by malware? One sign is that your web browser shows unexpected pop-ups or seems to be running slower. But many malware infections remain “stealthy,” possibly even eluding anti-malware scans.

Legitimate ad creators and ad delivery networks are working on ways to detect and prevent malware from getting into the digital ads they serve. Otherwise, people have even more reason to not look at ads or block ads entirely.

But, assuming it can be done, this won’t happen for a year or more. The burden is on companies and individuals to do their best to protect their networks, computers, and devices.

What Can Companies and Users Do?
Although malvertising is a relatively new vector, the best security practices still apply; if you’re already doing things right, keep doing them. But what does “doing things right” look like?

  1. Avoid clicking on those ads, even accidentally.
  2. Maintain strong network security measures. Next generation firewalls at the gateway can often detect malware payloads delivered by ads, block the ads entirely, and/or detect communication from already-infected devices.
  3. Regularly backup systems and critical files so you can quickly restore to a pre-infected state if your systems and data are compromised.
  4. Deploy endpoint security software on every device so that it’s protected on and off the network.
  5. Ensure that all operating systems and client software (especially web browsers) are fully patched and up to date.
  6. If you suspect a computer has been infected, stop using it for sensitive activities until it’s been “disinfected.” Again, many security appliances can help you identify and quarantine infected devices.

It’s unfortunate that even more of everyday Internet use is potentially unsafe, but the steps to fend off malvertising are essentially security precautions that companies and individuals should already be following.

Does Your Company Need An Internet Usage Policy?

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

With the growth and expansion of the Internet, it is important to make sure that your business has a policy in place to protect its assets.

Depending on your business, an Internet Usage Policy (IUP) can be long and drawn out or short and to the point.

An IUP will provide your employees with guidelines on what is acceptable use of the Internet and company network. IUPs not only protect the company, but also the employee.

Employees are informed and aware of what is acceptable when it comes to websites and downloading files or programs from the Internet.

When employees know there will be serious consequences for breaking the IUP, such as suspension or termination of employment, companies tend to notice a decrease in security risks due to employee carelessness.

You will need to make sure your IUP covers not only company equipment and your network, but also employee-owned devices such as smart phones and tablets. You may be surprised at the number of employees that feel they do not have to follow the IUP because they are using their own device to surf or download from the Internet.

Make sure you address proper usage of company-owned mobile devices. Your business may have satellite employees or a traveling sales force. Even when they are away, they need to be aware they are still representatives of the business and must follow the business IUP.

After all, it would not go over well if your sales staff was giving a presentation to a prospective client and suddenly, “adult content” ads popped-up on the screen because one of your employees was careless in their web habits.

The downloading of files and programs is a security risk in itself. Private, internal company documents and correspondence downloaded from your company’s network can become public, causing unrepairable damage.

On the same thought, employees downloading from the Internet open your company’s network up to malware attacks and infections.

There are a lot of hackers that prey upon the absent-minded employee downloading a video or song file by hiding a piece of malware within the download. Once the malware makes it into your network, there’s no telling what damage it can cause.

As for non-work related use of the company network and Internet, make sure your employees know there is no expectation of personal privacy when using the company’s network and Internet connection.

Make it well-known that the network and Internet are in place to be used for work purposes only. Improper use of the network can reduce bandwidth throughout the company network.

This includes all mobile devices owned by the company. This way, your employees know that no matter where they are they still must follow the guidelines of the IUP.

Make sure all of your employees sign the IUP and fully understand what it is they are signing. Make sure you answer any and all questions they may have.

This will help clear up any confusion your employees may have. This way, there can be no excuses as to why the IUP was broken.

Whenever you update the IUP, make sure you have all of your employees sign and understand the new additions and/or changes to the IUP. It may seem like overkill, but you’ll be glad you did if you ever run into any violations of your company’s IUP.

For assistance in creating Internet Usage Policies or if you have any questions, call the experts at Tech Experts: (734) 457-5000.