Personal cloud

Ever since I was introduced to cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, and other similar cloud storage services, it changed my life.  Those cloud storage services give me the ability to access my files from anywhere as long as I am connected to internet.  Further, when smart phones became the main stream, it allows me to back up my photos and videos to those services.  Such a convenience, do not have to worry about losing photos, ability to access on the smart phone or on the computer.

Western Digital My Cloud. Personal cloud storage
Western Digital My Cloud. Personal cloud storage

Today, I want to talk about My Cloud by Western Digital.  I have this product for about 3 years, and it has been very reliable in backing and synchronizing my data across all of my devices.

Let’s talk about the Good, Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good:

It is a fairly inexpensive device to own.  It gives me the piece of mind that all of my data is stored locally in my home and not at some corporation’s computer.  It came with few softwares / apps that can be installed on your PC or smart phones.   You can setup backups, Sync files, and simply access it directly by mapping the device in your computer.  My favorite software that came with it is called WD Sync.  I installed WD Sync in all of my computers, and selected My Documents and My Pictures to be sync.  This allows me to have the same documents and pictures in all of my devices.  I do not have to worry about the files I may have at work or at home.  I can continue my work from any computer where the WD Sync is installed.

The Bad:

As I mentioned above, one of the feature I like that come with My Cloud is a smart phone app to automatically save your photos and videos.  Although it’s doing a pretty good job on backing up the photos and videos, accessing the photos and videos is a different story.  There is usually 30 seconds lag to open up the photos, even if you are in the same network.  Accessing the photos / videos through data from service provider is just unbearable.  For photos and videos I still prefer Google Photos.  For your reference, the internet speed in my home is averaging 100mbps download and 12mbps upload.

The Ugly:

Being an older model and the first generation of My Cloud, this device does not come with the ability to stream content.  Newer devices and more expensive devices usually come with media server.  Nor it has the ability to host web servers or web applications.

In Conclusion:

If you need a solid, dependable, and inexpensive device with the ability to sync or to backup your data, this device is for you.  It is nice to have your files and data sync across your devices.

100mbps Everywhere: Fast speed with Google WiFi

After many dilemma on trying to resolve WiFi dead spots throughout the home as well as whether to invest in a new equipment, and basically getting rid perfectly good networking equipment, I finally decided to get Google WiFi.

As a background, my ISP have an output of 100mbps on the modem, which in theory should get me 100mbps speed for my devices.  In the previous setup, 100mbps only possible in the same room as where the wireless router is located.  The further away from the router, the speed decline significantly.  By the time I reach upstairs, the speed is less than 10% of what it should be.  In another word, the old setup is just simply does not work.  Wasted speed due to walls and distance from the main router.

With the new Google WiFi with mesh technology, we spread out the 3 units across the home, two downstairs, and one upstairs.  The results is 100mbps+ on every corner of the house.

At this point, I’m pretty impressed with the speed and reliability of the WiFi connection.  Read also my impression on parental control on this Google WiFi device.

Parental Control with Google Wifi

Managing and teaching children nowadays is not an easy task.  Electronic devices are the first thing they reach out the minute they wake up.  It is very hard to get them away from the electronic devices.  Often times, they forget about the time and  children are easily glued to electronic devices.
The questions remain how do we help the children to manage their time wisely, how do we limit their screen time without a lot of confrontation and finally how do we protect the children from things in the internet not suitable for their view.
Google WiFi - Family WiFi screen
Google WiFi – Family WiFi screen

Recently I purchased Google WiFi.  A mesh router system that helped me solve the dead zone in my home.

The following are some of the more reasons why I bought Google WiFi.
1) Easy to use app.  All of the setup, management and and network monitoring are thru the app.
2) Family Wi-Fi – ability to pause devices within the group with one touch, create schedules for devices to internet
3) Site blocking – one touch parental control to protect from unsafe websites
Now the children are fully aware of the schedules implemented.  They know when to play, and when not to play.  Further, they also aware that their parents have the ability to turn on and to turn off the internet access very easily.  They tend to obey and listen to what we ask.  Most importantly it’s easier for the parents to sleep at night as the children are protected from the unsafe sites.

To upgrade or not to upgrade

As the struggle continues to eliminate dead-spots in our home, a question comes to mind whether to continue spend incremental investment on the current system or to invest on something totally brand new.

The current system is referring to a modem connected to a wireless router, the router then connected by wire and then to a switch, another connection over power line, and finally connection with wireless bridge.  The goal is to have more access points throughout the house.  As much as it sounds good, it’s also bad.  It is bad because as a device is roaming throughout the house, wireless connection have to be adjust continuously to connect to the nearest access point.  It is bad, as I further my investments on smart door bell, smart switches and IP cameras, serious delays occur.  It is also a headache when there’s a hiccups in the system.  When one of the device become malfunction debugging process is full of hassle and time consuming.  Process of elimination is required to find out if the device or the bridge or if the main router is malfunction.

GoogleWiFi - Mesh networking
GoogleWiFi – Mesh networking

The new system is referring to a mesh networking, such as Google WiFi.  If the decision is to purchase a new system it means few things:  Retiring all of the network devices, including TP Link AC 1200,  TRENDnet TPL-406E2K Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter Kit, NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi Range Extender.  It means foregoing these devices collected throughout the year, which also probably worth about $300 altogether.  It also means spending about $300 for a new system, a solution that is not cheap.

What are some of the benefits on investing on a mesh network such as Google WiFi?

  • One SSID throughout the network – no more switching wifi as the device roam the house.
  • Fast connection throughout the house, elimination of dead spots.
  • Simple connection – no more managing multiple network devices.
  • Site blocking and parental control.
  • A smart phone app to control and change settings anywhere in the world.
  • Easily eliminate dead spots for homes up to 3000 sqft

To upgrade or not to upgrade?

 

Eliminating Dead Spots

TP Link AC 1200 Router
TP Link AC 1200 Router

TP Link AC 1200 aka Archer C5 have been the router serving my residence for the past 2 years.  It is a decent router with Dual Band Gigabit Router capable of broadcasting 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals at the same time.  It also supports 802.11ac standard which was revolutionary at the time this router was introduced.  I must say it is not an entry level router.

There are many settings and features available.  Some of the features worth mentioning are:  Guest Network Access,  Built in 2 USB Ports for easy file sharing and share local printer, Port Forwarding, scheduling access to internet and many others.

As far as the appearance, it looks like a very capable router with big long antennas and very glossy plastic.  Definitely a change from my previous router with no antenna.

Performance:  I’ve had almost zero issues with the router.  Come to think about it, most of my network issues in the past are due to the internet provider.   I had no problems connecting over 20 devices with both wired and wireless connection.

Deficiency: As much as it is being reliable, it does not serve me well in my dwelling.  I live in about 2200 sq ft 2 story house.  The internet connection is on the bottom floor on one end of the house.  5Ghz signal is pretty much only available in the same room where the router is located.  Internet speed drop significantly as soon as a wall is crossed.  Upstairs is another issue, as the signal is just not penetrating through the wall / beam of the house.   The signal issue is not necessarily due to router weak performance.  Higher bandwidth e.g 5Ghz although can deliver at the higher speed, it also unable to penetrate through the wall.  The location of the internet connection is also play a big roll.  If I could place the router in the center of the house, less dead spots should be found.

Solutions: Over the years, I’ve been patching the dead spots issue with variety of solutions.  The following are some of the solutions:

TRENDnet TPL-406E2K
TRENDnet TPL-406E2K

TRENDnet TPL-406E2K Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter Kit.  This device allows me to use the electrical outlet to carry the data signal.  One of  the device is plugged into an electrical outlet nearest to the router, connect the Ethernet cable between the router and the device.  Then plug  the second device to the electrical outlet nearest to the computer (or any device requiring internet) and connect the Ethernet cable between the secondary device and the computer.  It is super convenient, plug and play ability.  It will only work as long as all of the electrical circuits are connected.  The only issue with this solution is speed inconsistency.

NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi Range Extender
NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi Range Extender

Although the TRENDnet TPL-406E2K is great for the computer or any devices with Ethernet cable, there are devices that still require wireless connection.  For those devices, NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi Range Extender come to rescue.   Just like the name, it communicate with the main router via wireless, amplify the signal, and finally re-broadcast the signal.  The one issue with NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi Range Extender or any extender is they use different SSIDs.  For this particular model, it broadcast 2.4Ghz as well as 5Ghz, which therefore adding 2 more SSIDs into my network.  To have more than one SSID in a location is not very practical, as most devices will not be able to seamlessly jump from one SSID to another and evaluating which signal is the strongest.

Both of these networking devices are patches to a solution.  They get the job done, but not the most ideal.  Further, these devices communicate at half duplex, which means only one thing S L O W.  There are numerous occasions where I prefer to connect directly to main router with 3 bars instead of connecting to NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi Range Extender at 5 bars.

At this point, these 3 set of devices cover my home.  Still do not cover 100%, but it cover at least 90% of the living area within the house.  As I collect more devices inside my house from phones, tablets, computers, smart switches, cameras and so forth, I may want to re-think this current strategy.

-Josh-