From laptops and tablet computers to smartphones and computer games consoles, modern homes are full of gadgets that do wonderful things on the internet. Most internet providers supply a WiFi router when you pay for one of their internet packages - then you just put the box in the corner of the room and forget about it.
When things are working smoothly, you can communicate, socialise, bank and shop online with no problems. But it's when the internet starts playing up (be it slowing down or buffering) that all these things we normally take for granted become difficult.
Due to my line of work, family and friends often bring internet connection problems to my door. Below are a few that I've heard about on a number of occasions and I expect are raised in a number of households today:
High drama in the attic
Ever since one of my friends moved into her current house, her son had been desperate to move into the attic room. After the move had eventually taken place, it quickly became clear his Xbox wasn't working properly, continuously buffering and, as a result his online multiplayer games were being interrupted.
This sort of problem is particularly annoying, especially when you've spent time trying to make your home and technology set up perfect - only to have best laid plans scuppered by a poor WiFi connection. As the popularity of online gaming continues to grow, ever greater demand is placed on connectivity. No one wants their gaming experience to be stuttered - without the right devices to boost connectivity between your WiFi router and console, this is exactly what can happen.
There is a simple way that you can extend your WiFi connection to cover the whole house. Using a WiFi range extender to boost your router's signal will ensure that you can pick up signal anywhere - including up in the attic. These small boxes simply plug into an electrical socket and use antennas to boost the wireless network's range. They are fairly innocuous and you wouldn't really notice they are there. As well as extending the signal, the devices also strengthen it, making annoying buffering hold-ups less likely.
Another friend was recently given an iPad by his employer and was allowed to take it home for personal use out of hours. His partner loved using it to catch up with television shows on demand, but could only use it when he was home from work - so she was pleased when she received her very own iPad for Christmas.
They say that there's loads of programmes they each like to watch on the BBC iPlayer, but complain that the videos are poorer quality than they used to be. Quite often, one will experience buffering during Match of the Day 2, while the other catches up on Eastenders.
The problem here is that the home network is overloaded - it was performing fine before the addition of these new internet-hungry devices, but is now struggling to meet demand. When you take out a home broadband package, most providers will give you a router as part of the deal. They can work perfectly fine for basic use, but these days households are demanding more and more from their internet connection - with laptops, tablets, smartphones and computer games consoles all connecting to the web. When too many devices try to use your internet connection at the same time, you are bound to get an interrupted service from these free, basic routers.
Having a faster router connection speed will transfer data from your router to devices faster, which means it is less likely to overload and buffer. For an even better quality connection, a dual band WiFi router transmits two different signal types at the same time. Because the signal is spread across a wider spectrum, the chance of your WiFi connection being slowed down by other devices - such as baby monitors and cordless phones - is minimised.