Your Wi-Fi router might be slowing you down. It's among the key things you need to check if your smart home network is not up to speed.

Your Wi-Fi router might be slowing you down. It's among the key things you need to check if your smart home network is not up to speed.

Smart homes and connected devices have become a part of modern life for many—our homes can relay information to us at any time, no matter where we are, and many common tasks can easily be automated. These devices require non-stop internet bandwidth to operate, though, and connecting enough of them can slow your internet to a crawl.

If your home network is struggling to keep up with your smart devices, follow these steps to troubleshoot your connection and keep your smart home running smoothly.

[1] Check your current internet speed

Before going any further, check your current internet speed. You can use free online tools to test your upload and download speeds to see whether your current network connection and plan is fast enough to support your use. These numbers also give you a benchmark to use in additional troubleshooting steps.

Prior to running a speed test, it’s always a good idea to check to be sure the device you are running it from supports the bandwidth you are paying for. For example, if you are paying for one of the new, high-end 250 Mbps services, running the test from a desktop computer with a built-in 100 Mbps wired connection will never give you speeds over 100 Mbps, no matter what you do.

Free internet speed testing tools, such as that provided by shown here, can be used to benchmark bandwidth available on your home network. Image: Digitized House Media.

When checking your speed, you’re looking for two things: that you’re getting speeds that are in the ballpark of what you’re paying your internet provider for, and that the speed is high enough to support a connected home with multiple devices online at once. Keep in mind, though, that internet speeds can vary widely based on time of day, what your networked neighbors might be doing, and myriad other factors.

[2] Troubleshoot hardware issues

If you don’t see the speeds you think you should be getting from your current internet provider, something else may be interfering with your signal. The next step is to start troubleshooting around your home.

Check all of your computers, smartphones, and tablets for any open programs or apps that might be eating up your connection. Common culprits include photo upload services, large downloads (such as those pesky app updates) running in the background, or any automatic data backup services you may have enrolled in. You can also try the old standby of rebooting your devices—sometimes a device or bit of software goes rogue and eats up bandwidth, and a quick reset can take care of it. There’s a reason this is recommended so often!

[3] Upgrade your Wi-Fi router

If you troubleshot potential issues and you still aren’t seeing the expected speeds, it may be time for a router upgrade. Your router takes an internet signal from the provider’s wide-area public network and connects it to your private home network—typically incorporating a layer of firewall software for safety—then adding Wi-Fi for wireless access and probably a handful of Ethernet ports for wired devices. However, if it’s older or uses outdated technology, it can prevent your signal from attaining the right speeds.

Since smart homes often have many devices online at once, look for a router that advertises a high bandwidth that matches or exceeds your plan and multiple bands (dual-band or tri-band) to handle the extra workload.

[4] Contact your internet provider

Once you’ve handled the hardware, it’s time to look at your internet plan. If you are paying for speeds higher than you’re actually getting, contact your internet provider. They might have additional troubleshooting tips or discount pricing since your actual speed doesn’t match your plan’s advertised speed. You can also learn if this is a common problem in your area.

[5] Make sure your internet plan accommodates your needs

Now, if you are getting the internet speeds you are paying for but it still seems too slow, it’s possible your selected plan doesn’t offer enough bandwidth for your needs. Exactly how much bandwidth you need depends on what you do with your connection—if you’ve got multiple smart home devices connecting at once, plus a couple laptops or tablets and your smartphone, you may need a higher-than-average speed.

Charts float around online with bandwidth recommendations for various services and use cases, but keep in mind that these are usually minimum requirements. For example, Netflix recommends a 5 Mbps connection for an HD stream, but that doesn’t always mean it’ll be a smooth experience if your smart cameras all come online at once to upload video. When in doubt, more bandwidth is better, particularly if you are contemplating upgrading your TVs to 4K UHD service or adding more smart accessories around your home.

[6] Turn off unnecessary devices to conserve bandwidth

You can still manage to free up some bandwidth even if your internet budget is maxed. If you have devices that stay running in the background, like a smart camera or a desktop computer that comes online to perform uploads, try turning them off when you don’t need them.

Although it’s not the most convenient solution, this option gives you more control over when and how devices use your internet. You can turn unneeded devices off when you use your connection for something specific, like streaming a movie, and then turn them back on once you’re done.

[7] Optimize your workflow for a slow connection

Finally, if all else fails, adjust your workflow to account for a heavily used connection. Pay attention to times when your smart home devices are most active and note when your internet connection feels slowest. You can then plan your work, video streaming, or other important tasks around those times.

There’s more to a well-functioning smart home than just the devices themselves. Your network is also crucial—even the smartest devices can become useless without a connection. Use these tips to help keep your internet at top speed.