A bit of detective work and the culprits behind slow network
We recently installed our software at a new customer with all
new 64 bit computers and the much over hyped BT fast broadband. I
think the ad with the guy from "My family" goes something like "the
fastest, most reliable broadband".
So the question was, why was their network about 4 times slower
than a 3 year old laptop which has a quarter of the computing
power? We expect our pages to load in around a second, not 15-20
seconds. The network was as supplied by BT. The PCs as supplied by
The first step was to ask what antivirus they had? Norton was
the answer. We know Norton and some others exhaustively (and in
certain cases needlessly) analyse network traffic before allowing
the network to pass the communication between any two computers. A
bit like a set of roadwork traffic lights. No matter that, if it
was a bit more intelligent, it would see that it was perfectly safe
to let the traffic through, it does a "jobs worth" of checking and
cross checking then, grudgingly only after some immense time doing
this, finally allows safe traffic to pass. In doing all this
checking, Norton makes even the fastest network behave like a
So the first task was to tell Norton that MS SQL has never been
able to store a virus hidden between the folds of its data
structure and there has only ever been one case of the database
engine being infected (so well is it controlled). This one case was
over five years ago now and the current versions of MSSQL (which we
use) are totally immune to this type of virus or indeed any type of
The next issue turned out to be BT's much advertised wireless
hub. Now with any wireless hub or router there are always over a
dozen channels that your network can choose to communicate on. So
BT always chooses the same one. It's a bit like having a
dozen lifts and telling everyone to use the same lift leaving the
other eleven empty. Queues form and it takes forever for the lift
doors to close, the person at the back is the first one who wants
to get out, etc., etc., etc.. Your wi-fi connection has exactly
these problems but these are translated into data transfer.
So we chose another channel: - mmm the customer said, the entire
network seems to be running better now….
If you have an Android phone then the following very simple free
app shows you which channels are being used by neighbours and which
Free Android wifi
There is an app for your iPhone or iPad as well...
Free iPhone wifi analyzer
although we have not tried this one.
And of course if you only have your laptop, then there is this
excellent free windows application.
Free windows wifi analyser
At the end of the day, if you are in a noisy environment, the
answer to your Wi fi problems may be "just say no" and invest in
cables between your computers. These cables are commonly known as
"cat 5" and "cat 6" which are 100MB and 1GB (100 million Bytes per
second and 1000 million Bytes per second respectively) and a Byte
is a "word" of digital data. The ends of the cables have connectors
called RJ45. (Your wifi connection probably gives you 56MB at
best.) Don't pay over the odds for these cables - the "cat" name
means they are built to a standard and all "cat 5" cables have the
same standard of performance.
PS There is a known issue with the current version of
the andriod free app which may also apply to the others as
well. The app continues to display an old connection when your
router has been reset to another channel. You need to restart your
phone / pc to clear the old channel. This may be because the wifi
device may be hanging on to the old connection and keeping it
Spend just ten minutes with one of these free apps and any home
or office Wi-fi network may run a lot more reliably. Of course you
wont get any interference problems with a good old fashioned cable
and youl also get 100Mb or 1GB bandwidth...