In today’s connected world, it’s important for businesses (large and small) to have fast, stable Wi-Fi networks with ample coverage that reaches every corner of their office, warehouse, shop, or other workspace.
For years, big businesses have used mesh Wi-Fi networking to achieve these goals. But thanks to advances in technology and decreases in cost, these extremely fast and stable mesh networks are now becoming accessible to small and medium businesses as well as homeowners.
What is a Mesh Network?
With a standard Wi-Fi setup, you have a single router that broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal. The further you are from that router, the weaker that signal gets. If the router goes down, your Wi-Fi goes with it.
With a mesh Wi-Fi network, on the other hand, there’s no one central hub for your Wi-Fi. Instead, the network is made up of a series of routers, called nodes. All of these nodes communicate with each other, determining the best path for data to travel.
By spreading the nodes out across a space, you create a blanket of overlapping coverage from their signals. If you need that coverage to extend across a larger space, you just add more nodes.
Go Faster and Farther
The most obvious advantage of a mesh network is expanded coverage. The Wi-Fi signal from a single router generally only provides ample coverage to about 1000 square feet of space. And that’s assuming the space is all one story and doesn’t have any difficult-to-penetrate walls, like ones made of glass or containing heavy steel beams.
For larger buildings, especially multi-story ones, a mesh network can help to ensure that every office, conference room, warehouse and waiting room has a strong wifi signal, thanks to the overlapping blanket of coverage created by multiple nodes.
Because the multiple nodes all work together to find the optimal path for data traveling across the network, mesh networks are also significantly faster. In everyday terms, the nodes prevent traffic jams so everything can flow more smoothly.
Stability and Resilience
What may be the biggest advantage of mesh networking is the greatly enhanced stability of the network. Losing access to the internet, even for a short time, can cause serious and potentially costly problems for small and medium sized businesses.
With a standard Wi-Fi network, the router is a point of weakness. If it goes down, the whole network goes with it. But with a mesh network, there’s no central hub. Every node is an equal part of the network.
So, if an individual node goes down, the rest of the nodes automatically take up the slack. Every node just needs to be in contact with at least one other node in order to keep working.
This enhanced network stability can prevent work from being lost, increase worker productivity and help keep customers happy by avoiding unnecessary delays.
Easy to Use
Once set-up and installed, mesh Wi-Fi networks are very user-friendly. Every node is part of the same network, so your devices don’t have to switch between them as you go from one part of your workspace to another.
The network can be monitored from a smartphone app, and more nodes can easily be added if needed for wider coverage.
Advantages Over a Range Extender
Prior to mesh Wi-Fi networks becoming more accessible, many home and business owners solved their Wi-Fi coverage problems by connecting one or more range extenders to their router.
While range extenders can still be useful for some applications today, mesh Wi-Fi networks have some clear advantages over them. For one thing, range extenders tend to slow down your network rather than speeding it up.
That’s because a range extender generally uses only one wireless radio for both transmitting and receiving. On the other hand, mesh Wi-Fi nodes have multiple radios so they can talk to your devices and the other nodes all at the same time.
Another issue with range extenders is that many of them broadcast as a different network than the original router. So, you might need to connect to one network in your office, but switch to another one as you walk into the conference room.
In contrast, the mesh network provides one single network throughout your space. That decreases frustration and prevents your connection from being interrupted.
Finally, range extenders don’t provide the boost to stability that you get with a mesh network. With range extenders, there’s still a centralized hub. If the router goes down, the extenders are no longer connected to the internet, so the whole network goes down.
Again, stable, reliable Wi-Fi is extremely important to many businesses, so the mesh Wi-Fi network has a significant advantage over range extenders.