EarthLink Business: Dispelling “VoIP” Misconceptions

With the ever-growing vocabulary of our world’s vastly expanding information highway, some terms become lost, skewed, or incorrectly defined. Let’s take the acronym VoIP for example. Even if we know that it stands for “Voice Over Internet Protocol,” we might not truly understand when it is taking place.  During our trainings and teaching sessions, we find that some ideas and concepts are lost in the mix.

Voice Over Internet Protocol is a way to send information more efficiently over a network. Using a “local area network” or “LAN,” both data and voice can be sent over a single Ethernet cable. This eliminates the need for additional runs back to the switch room which reduces costs for the customer. Through the use of VLANs the voice and data traffic is properly separated in order to prioritize voice at all times.

Some companies, like Skype or Vonage, utilize VoIP technology over their “wide area network” (or “WAN’), meaning their customers’ voice calls actually traverse the public Internet. This can be a simple and efficient way of placing a phone call on the run, however this design frequently leads to degraded call quality and reliability issues.

When considering our EarthLink Business Hosted Voice solution, it is important to understand the superior call quality and reliability that we are able to provide. With this business VoIP product, the customer receives a dedicated voice and data SIP circuit that is terminated at the customer’s location. When a call is made, the call travels over EarthLink’s private proprietary network until it is directly handed off to the PSTN. Because we own the entire leg of the call, we are able to guarantee QoS and superior call quality. Most companies claim to utilize QoS, but few can truly guarantee it. There are also several advantages to a SIP circuit over a traditional PRI, which I’ll write about in a future article!

10 Wi-Fi Security Tips

Last week I offered some Wi-Fi performance tips for all you high-speed Internet users with a home network.

Today, as promised, it’s Wi-Fi security. Here are 10 security tips for you, so you can enjoy all the benefits of your Wi-Fi home network with peace of mind.

  • Get a move on: Moving your router away from walls, into the center of your home will not only increase the performance of your home network, it will also help with Wi-Fi security (since your signal isn’t broadcast all over the neighborhood).
  • Keeping default is your fault: Your Wi-Fi router probably arrived with a default SSID (network name), username and password. Change all these defaults immediately (or sooner).
  • Get turned on: Your Wi-Fi router has built-in security settings. Make sure they are turned on. If there’s more than 1 security setting, make sure you choose WPA2 (next best choice would be WPA). Also, some routers come with built-in firewalls; if yours does, make sure it’s turned on too.
  • The weakest link: The security level of your network is defined by the least secure device you use. So if you’ve got WPA2 security for your router, make sure devices connecting to your network are capable of WPA2. If you see Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ on a device, it is WPA2-capable.
  • Step up to Wi-Fi Protected Setup: If you are buying a new router, look for a Wi-Fi Protected Setup logo on the box: this will make secure setup as simple as possible.
  • Good passwords don’t make sense: Make sure your password isn’t in the dictionary or somehow related to you (like your name, address, birthday). Use at least 8 characters (even longer is better), upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Ideally it should look like gibberish. Then write it down and save it in a safe place.
  • Don’t be a broadcaster: If you see an option on your router setting to Disable SSID Broadcast, click it. Then your Wi-Fi network will be a little bit harder for bad guys to find.
  • Don’t be automatic: Make sure your computer isn’t set to automatically join open Wi-Fi networks and instead asks for your approval. This is most important with laptops away from home, but it can add to your home safety as well.
  • Power up the protection: Don’t forget to use a firewall and other protection software on your computers. EarthLink members can download the EarthLink Protection Control Center for free, or purchase a low-cost subscription to Norton 360. Both have built-in firewalls, antivirus, anti-spyware, and other security features.
  • Power off the network: If you’re going to be away from home for any extended amount of time, turn off your Wi-Fi router. Your network can’t be hacked if it isn’t on. And have a good trip!

Wi-Fi Home Network Performance Tips

If you’ve got high-speed Internet access at home, you’re really missing out if you don’t have a Wi-Fi home network set up.

Wi-Fi iconA wireless home network lets your laptop use your high-speed connection all around your house, often even out in the yard or on the porch. It also lets multiple computers share a printer, enables file sharing, and even helps you save money on your phone’s data plan by using your home Wi-Fi to surf on your smartphone.

EarthLink offers a Wi-Fi home networking service that includes all the free equipment (router, adapters, etc.) you need, plus help designing the perfect network and ongoing support. Or you can buy a wireless router online or at a local computer or electronics store.

If you’re ready to set up a Wi-Fi network at home or want to optimize performance of the one you already have, we have some helpful tips for you.

  • Location, location, location: Where you put your Wi-Fi router matters. Set it up in a central location for all your computers. Check the range of the router you buy and make sure your home computers are within that range (walls and other obstructions will diminish that range).
  • Move the metal: Metal interferes with Wi-Fi signals, so keep your router away from metal objects if you can.
  • No interference penalties: Cordless phones, microwaves, garage door openers, and other common home devices use the same 2.4 GHz frequency that Wi-Fi modems often do. To prevent them interfering with your Wi-Fi network, choose devices that use the 5.8 GHz or 900 MHz frequencies and/or upgrade to an 802.11n Wi-Fi router since they can operate on two frequencies (see final tip).
  • Change the channel: Wi-Fi routers have channels just like TVs do, but in this case just 11. Most use channel 6 by default. If you aren’t getting a strong Wi-Fi connection, it may be because of overlapping signals from another nearby network. So it can help to change the channel of your router (1 or 11 are good choices since they are farthest from 6 but you may need to experiment). You’ll need to enter the IP address for the router into your browser; see your router’s documentation for details.
  • Get firm about your firmware: You probably know about updating your software, but routers often have firmware updates that can give you greater speed, reliability or security. Check your router manufacturer’s website for firmware updates to download.
  • N is for now: Wireless-N (802.11n) routers offer much faster speeds, much greater range, and fewer interference problems than A, B or G routers. If you have an older router, now’s the time to upgrade to N. (You may also want to replace older USB network adapters you are using with your computers.)

Enjoy your Wi-Fi home network! I’ll be writing about Wi-Fi security in a coming post.

Protecting Yourself on a Wi-Fi Network

There’s no doubt that Wi-Fi technology can be considered a great convenience. It allows us to do pretty much anything we can do while plugged into a wired network at home, work, or school. Have you ever wondered, though, just how secure that network may be? If you haven’t, you probably should, or at least be aware of some things you can do to help protect yourself while connected to a Wi-Fi network.
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