Now that you’ve upgraded your router and wireless access points its time to talk about letting go of the past. You see, an ethernet network (what we all use now days) slows down when slow devices are conversing on it. Think about your morning commute; if a car a mile up the road slows down to rubberneck the accident on the other side of the highway, so do you eventually. Networks are not all that different.
All of your devices are using the same pathways to connect to each other. In the first article in this series we discussed packets. Some of the packets that run across your network are essentially advertisements for the type of device and services it offers to other systems. These are called broadcast packets because they are sent throughout your entire network. Layer 2 packets are started on their trip with a broadcast; like you trying to get your friend’s attention at the bar. You shout their name and everyone hears you but only Kevin turns around. When this type of information hits an older device it leaves that device at a slower speed. Old man Bob hears you shout for Kevin but the has to think about who that is for a bit before he passes your shout on. This slows down your entire network just like the guy a mile up the road checking out the wreck. It doesn’t matter if the legacy system is wired or wireless the effect is the same.
What do you do if you need the older equipment to keep running but you don’t want the slow down it causes? This is a trickier situation that you might expect. No solution outside of removing the old equipment is going to be perfect. That being said, the strategy that is most effective is to isolate the equipment as much as is possible. Group all the old stuff together on its own separate network per se. This can be accomplished through a technology known as VLANs.
VLANs or Virtual Local Area Networks are a way for your router to separate traffic into groups of devices. Like the right lane on the highway, all the slow people are supposed to stay out of the fast driver’s way (in theory). It isn’t hard to accomplish but the way you do it, is different for each specific set of equipment you might be using. Google is going to be your friend.
In the case of wireless equipment it helps to run all of your faster equipment on the 5 GHz channels and all of your older tech on the 2.4 GHz channels if your wireless access point has the ability to do both. VLANs can provide wireless networks with isolation from the packets that go across them but not from the signal waves the Wi-Fi protocol uses to send an transmit the packets with. Separation at the signal level requires running your equipment on two different stations as it were.