Wi-Fi is a wireless signal which allows you to connect to the internet, either through mobile or fixed-line broadband.
A router is a device which provides Wi-Fi. Most routers have both Wi-Fi and ethernet (connecting to the internet through a cable) built in, but using Wi-Fi is now a more popular way to connect.
If you already have an internet connection but it is unreliable, you may be able to improve it by changing the way your Wi-Fi router is set up.
Note that following this advice will not address wider internet connection issues not caused by Wi-Fi set up. These could be caused by your broadband speed, the mobile connection available in your local area, or other issues that require specialist IT support.
Setting up your Wi-Fi to get the best signal
Wi-Fi signals are short range and cannot travel well through thick walls, so it’s important to set up your router correctly for the best results.
Set up your router in a central location if possible, away from furniture that could block the signal. This may be enough for small care homes, but larger homes may need Wi-Fi extenders, Wi-Fi mesh devices or commercial-grade solutions.
Extending your Wi-Fi coverage
If you need better Wi-Fi coverage, the right solution depends on the size of your site.
Smaller care home (one to nine beds)
You could use a Wi-Fi extender such as:
- a Wi-Fi powerline extender – these are useful if you have one area of your site with poor coverage which connects to the same mains circuit as your router
- a Wi-Fi repeater – these are a cheap and simple solution for amplifying your Wi-Fi signal to give it a better range, but need to be placed within range of an existing Wi-Fi signal
You will have to reconnect to the internet when moving out of range of the main router and into the area covered by the extender.
Small to medium sized care homes (10 to 30 beds)
You could use a Wi-Fi mesh device. These work in a similar way to Wi-Fi extenders but offer a better range. You will not need to disconnect and reconnect if you move out of range of one Wi-Fi unit and into another. Speak to your provider to find out if they have compatible mesh devices or if you need to upgrade.
Larger care homes (more than 30 beds)
If you need to connect multiple users across many rooms, a commercial-grade system may be the best option.
These work by using access points across the building, which are wired up to the main broadband connection using physical cables. You’ll need a professional IT supplier to install these.
Contact your local commissioner to find out if they have a recommended list of suppliers, or search for local options online.
- you need a separate Wi-Fi network for staff, residents and visitors
- each Wi-Fi network should have its own separate broadband connection (so that the staff connection won’t be affected by heavy resident or visitor use)
- you want an ongoing contract for maintenance and/or support
Keeping your Wi-Fi secure
It’s important to keep your Wi-Fi secure from unauthorised access.
The first step is to make sure users have to enter a password to connect to the network. Most routers already have passwords, but if not, read the router manual or speak to your internet provider to find out how to set up a password.
If setting up a new password, follow the National Cyber Security Centre guidance to creating strong passwords.
You should also:
- keep your router in a secure location, to prevent anyone resetting the password or bypassing password security by using the Wi-Fi Protected Set-up (WPS) button
- get advice from an IT specialist about additional security for your network - you could ask about disabling Service Set Identifier (SSID) broadcast, enabling Media Access Control (MAC) blocking unauthorised devices and setting up firewalls
Managing your Wi-Fi network
To keep your Wi-Fi network working well, you need to carry out a few maintenance tasks. You could do these yourself or use an IT support company.
These tasks include:
- removing old devices and connecting new ones – if ‘MAC filtering’ has been enabled, you will need to give permission for a new device to join the network, and devices no longer in use should be removed from the Wi-Fi network
- device troubleshooting – if your connection is slower than it should be, try restarting the router, refer to the troubleshooting section in the user manual, or contact your internet provider for advice
- carry out regular speed tests – regularly reduced speeds may indicate you need a broadband connection with higher capacity
- occasionally updating firmware (the basic software instructions that control a hardware device) and operating systems (the software that provides the user functionality, such as Microsoft Windows) – the user manual should give instructions on how to do this