February 16, 2023
Mark Bartley
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Mesh Networks vs. WiFi Extenders - Which is best for business?

If there’s a corner of your office that’s quieter than Chernobyl, then there’s a good chance that it’s a WiFi dead zone that no one enters unless they want to escape their ever-increasing email inbox.

Luckily for you and your business, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the help of mesh networks and WiFi extenders, you can improve coverage across your workplace. Both technologies have their optimal use cases and in this article we’ll explore which option your business should be considering.

Mesh Network

What is a Mesh Network?

A mesh network is a type of local area network (LAN) that connects different devices and allows them to share information in an interconnected web. This type of network offers several advantages over traditional LANs, including improved reliability and greater scalability.

A mesh network works by connecting all the devices in the system together with multiple paths, rather than directly routing data through one central point or hub. Each device on the mesh network acts as a router and helps to pass data along until it reaches its destination. This allows for easier communication between connected devices, even if one fails or becomes disconnected due to environmental issues such as interference or physical damage.

Mesh networks are becoming increasingly popular because they offer increased flexibility compared to other LAN types, allowing users to add new devices without needing additional wiring or equipment.

What is a WiFi Extender?

A WiFi extender is a device used to increase the range and strength of a wireless signal. It helps to extend the reach of a wireless network, allowing users to access an internet connection from further away than would be possible with just a router alone. This can be especially useful in large offices where walls may block signals from one room to another, as well as in outdoor spaces.

WiFi Extenders are often great for “plug and play” and some also include ethernet connection options which may help for wired hardware around your office. Unlike mesh networks, they aren’t chained together and therefore they can be considered easier to configure and maintain.

WiFi extenders work by connecting directly to an existing router and then broadcasting their own signal. This ‘extended’ signal is weaker and has less bandwidth than the main router signal but still allows for access up to several hundred feet away depending on model and environmental factors.

While range can be improved by utilising a WiFi extender, you should expect potential speed losses the further away you get from your main router.

How does a Mesh Network work?

Mesh networks are an effective way to spread Internet access throughout a large area. A mesh network is made up of nodes that communicate with each other, eliminating the need for a single source or multiple routers.

A mesh network begins with two or more nodes connected together. Each node functions as both router and client, which means it can send and receive signals from other nodes in the network. The nodes then link together in a star topology, where each node is assigned its own IP address and communicates with neighbouring nodes using point-to-point protocol (PPP). This allows data packets to move quickly and efficiently from one node to another without having to go through multiple hops or routers.

How does a WiFi Extender work?

At the root of it, a WiFi extender operates by taking the original WiFi signal from your router and sending it to places that were previously out of reach. It often creates its own network with its own name and security credentials, while mesh networks are integrated solutions.

WiFi extenders are designed to rebroadcast signals to dead zones, but this means that the extender must be placed close enough to the router as well as close enough to the dead zone.

If you have extenders located around your office, your users are connecting to these networks rather than your router and each device will need to be connected to each extender.

Which is better – Mesh Network or WiFi Extender?

This is highly dependent on several factors – cost, technical knowledge and the space you plan to use the technology.

When it comes to cost, WiFi extenders are considered entry-level solutions for WiFi coverage issues and, on average, they’re cheaper to install and set up than a mesh network. There are less “moving parts” in a WiFi extended network, and therefore it requires less technical expertise to install and configure. Many WiFi extenders also have the benefit of one-button configuration, and companion apps to manage them, making them easy to use, but when it comes to large spaces, having to connect devices to multiple extenders will be far from ideal for most businesses.

Unlike when using WiFi extenders, your users won’t experience dropouts when moving around an office when connected to a mesh network. As mesh networks are simply nodes within your entire connectivity network, they are technically part of the same network, and your devices will be configured to remain connected to the strongest signal in your workspace, switching between nodes as you move.

However, mesh networks are considerably more expensive and can also be far more complex to configure and maintain. A mesh network is like a series of routers and if you find the thought of setting up a router a bit of a headache, you can be assured that doing it as part of a mesh network may make your head explode. You’ll need to consider utilising a WiFi solution provider, such as Haptic, to design and configure your network.

The benefit of having a professional mesh network configured for your business includes an increased level of security, stability, and connection. If a mesh network device experiences a fatal error, your devices won’t disconnect from your network, but will automatically switch to the next nearest operational node.

Should I use a Mesh Network or WiFi Extender for my Business?

This all depends on the type and size of your business workplace. WiFi extenders, simply put, are best used in homes, home offices, or small office spaces, where there is one connectivity dead zone that needs addressing.

However, if your business has a large office with multiple rooms and floors, then extenders are far from optimal and will potentially create more issues than they fix. Mesh networks are likely to be the best solution, and while the cost upfront may be slightly higher with a mesh network, like any other IT cost, you should consider the financial implications of lost time and connectivity over a prolonged period.

If your business requires a WiFi network in the first place, then it’s fair to say you probably have a large space and a reasonable amount of foot traffic through your workplace. Therefore, you also need to consider how best to serve that network and, in this scenario, a mesh network is going to serve those users most efficiently. While it may seem the more complex and intimidating solution, the experience your users will receive will be one of ease and simplicity.

If you’re considering how best to serve your WiFi network around your office or workplace, why not get in touch with our team today who can assess your requirements and provide you with a solution that’s sure to get your users connected.

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