As you work from home, consider these technology upgrades.

By Roxanna Coldiron
October 12, 2020
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Many of us are now working from home. While the lack of a commute can be nice on our transportation budgets, it can sometimes feel isolating to work in a home office. One of the benefits of remote work, though, is that you do not need to be surrounded by walls as long as you have a solid connection to the internet. Why not extend your Wi-Fi to an outdoor space like your patio or backyard for a change of scenery? The good news is that it is fairly easy to do—even if you aren't very tech savvy.

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Set up an outdoor Wi-Fi extender.

"Outdoor Wi-Fi extenders can vary in cost from under $100 to several thousand dollars," explains Jonathan S. Weissman, senior lecturer in the department of computing security at the Rochester Institute of Technology. "You'd want one that is able to endure weather conditions including water, dust, and temperature." You also want to think about signal strength and how far your Wi-Fi should be extended to meet your needs. For example, an extender—like the Netgear Orbi Outdoor Wi-Fi Extender ($350, bestbuy.com) or the WavLink Weatherproof Wi-Fi Range Extender ($87, amazon.com)—can be set up outside to increase your Wi-Fi range as far as 2,500 feet and handle all kinds of weather. This can be great if you have a huge yard and want to work by the pool, in a detached garage, or right under your favorite tree in the backyard.

When choosing an extender, you'll also want to check whether it will work with your Internet provider and their equipment. "Make sure that the extender is compatible with your home router," Weissman says. Then all you have to do is find the right location and follow the installation instructions for the extender. Many of them have a smartphone app that can help you to easily connect your router to the extender and set up your devices.

Consider security precautions.

Range and signal strength aren't your only considerations. You also need to make sure you have the most secure setup for your outdoor Wi-Fi, especially if you're using it for work. "Wi-Fi extenders should run a security protocol, either WPA2 or WPA3 (the latest), providing encryption," says Weissman. That means that you want to set a password for your outdoor Wi-Fi that will prevent easy access to your Wi-Fi and data.

Firmware updates, patches, and security updates also need to be done as soon as they are available, Weissman says. Don't wait days, weeks, or even months to update your Wi-Fi extender or outdoor router. Ignoring updates will leave your device vulnerable. Follow instructions for updates or set up automatic updates, if it's available. Monitor your network by regularly checking who is connected to your Wi-Fi as well. Working on your computer in the great outdoors will take away the doldrums of working at home but security is just as important.

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