HD streaming that buffers, video calls that drop out, and gaming lag are problems that can seriously test your patience. Especially if you know that your internet service should have absolutely no problem dealing with the speeds required.
So what's the problem?
Well, one thing it could be is that your bandwidth is being used elsewhere. Perhaps someone on your network is downloading a movie, or perhaps a piece of software is automatically updating.
If this is the case, then ensuring that your bandwidth is being used where it is most needed is a good way to improve your network performance. This article will look at exactly how to prioritize bandwidth on your network, and will focus heavily on QoS.
What Exactly Is QoS (Quality Of Service)?
QoS, or Quality of Service, is a feature on routers that you can use to prioritize certain types of traffic on your network.
You can usually prioritize based on the device you are using, certain applications, or certain types of traffic. This will then mean that you should experience less of a slowdown when using this type of traffic on a busy network.
The way this works is that the router categorizes the data streams on your network into different types of traffic using header information in the data packets or the data frames. Once this data has been identified, high priority packets will be sent to the front of the queue to be transmitted, while packets with a lower priority will have to wait until there is enough bandwidth available.
Will QoS Give Me More Bandwidth?
One thing that QoS will not do is give your network more bandwidth. It will simply prioritize certain devices or types of traffic. This means that, while on a congested network, these prioritized devices may use more bandwidth compared to lesser prioritized devices. Overall, the total amount of bandwidth on your network will stay the same.
Really, the only way to get more bandwidth on your network is to buy a router that allows more bandwidth to be transmitted.
For example, a Wireless N router will give you a maximum theoretical bandwidth of around 600 Mbps, while a Wireless AC router will theoretically give you up to 5000 Mbps on a tri band router.
To get more internet bandwidth (which is usually the bottleneck), you should always remember that while updating your router will give your network more bandwidth, the only way to increase the amount of internet bandwidth you receive is by getting more from your ISP.
Am I Able To Use QoS On My Router?
QoS is a feature that isn’t available on all routers. As well as this, the amount of control you get from your QoS service will also depend on your router; some routers offer much more control than others.
To check if you have QoS you are probably best off looking at your router manufacturer's website.
However, even if your router doesn't come with QoS already installed, you do still have other options as long as your router is compatible with...
Open Source Firmware (DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWRT)
Installing open source firmware on your router is a great way to give your router a ton of extra options, one of which is advanced QoS features.
When you install any of these firmwares on your router, you will be removing your router’s existing firmware. It is risky because as well as potentially voiding your warranty, it can stop your router from working (called "bricking") if something goes wrong during installation. Because of this, we always recommend you install open source software only when connected to Ethernet. Research if your router supports open source firmware and that you install the correct firmware version. Read more here
How To Prioritize Bandwidth With QoS (with DD-WRT)
Before you do anything, make sure any changes you make are small and incremental, and work towards whatever goal you're hoping to achieve. You don't want to be too aggressive at the start.
It's a good idea to run Speed Test before you do anything. Run it with all other devices powered off, with exception your device and router/modem. Try to do this a few times spread out through the day and note the results down. This will give you a good baseline of your internet speeds, both upstream and downstream, before you make changes.
On with QoS setup...
This will be different depending on your router and the firmware your router is running. This guide will look at one of the most popular open source firmwares out there DD-WRT.
The DD-WRT Priority Levels
Before changing anything, it's important to understand the priority levels with DD-WRT:
- Maximum: 60% – 100%
- Premium: 25% – 100%
- Express: 10% – 100%
- Standard: 5% – 100%
- Bulk: 1% – 100%
Maximum is obviously the most prioritized, with "Bulk" the least so. Having devices or services on "Maximum" priority level, would have a minimum of 60% bandwidth available under congestion conditions.
Ok, so you have the basics, now onto the configuration:
1. First of all you will have to log into your router’s firmware, and then find the QoS settings bar. To do this simply click on “NAT/QoS" on the top bar, and then click on “QoS”.
2. The first thing you will have to do is enable QoS by checking the “enable” box next to “Start QoS.”
3. You will then have to select either “HTB” for multiple services, or “HFSC,” which is the default setting. Of the two options, HTB gives you more overall control and the rest of this guide uses HTB.
4. After this, you can specify how much of your network will be used for QoS by setting the “Uplink” and “Downlink” settings. You should set these to about 90% of your Internet speed.
Uplink & Downlink Numbers
Try to avoid entering in the same or higher figures than what your actual speeds are (and vice-versa).Too high a number means QoS is less likely to "kick in". Too low can mean QoS is too agressive.
Now you can see why we recommend running those Speed Tests that were mentioned earlier!
5. Now you have started QoS, things get a little more complicated. Here are three guides for doing different things with QoS.
1. Optimize For Gaming
If you want to optimize your network for gaming then you are pretty lucky. All you will have to is click the checkbox next to “Optimize for Gaming” and the firmware will automatically optimize your network for gaming.
2. Choosing Services to Prioritize
1. The next box is the box that allows you to prioritize certain services. You will see a list of services and next to them a dropdown menu. Depending on what you choose from the dropdown box will depend on how much of a priority will be given to this traffic.
2. For types of traffic that you want to prioritize, simply select Premium from the drop down box. Leave the other services as standard.
3. You can add service using the dropdown box at the bottom of the page, or delete service by checking the box on the left hand side and then pressing delete.
3. Choosing Certain Devices To Prioritize
1. You can prioritize certain devices by adding a device under the “MAC Priority” section.
2. To do this, you will have to find the MAC address of the device and then add it to this section.
3. You will then have to assign “Max Kbits Up” and “Max Kbits Down.”
Save The Settings
Once you have done all of this, be sure to save your settings and apply them to your network using the buttons at the bottom of the page.
Make Sure You Test!
If you have added QoS settings to your router, it is essential that you test your speeds to check that the settings are actually working.
A very simple way to do this is to use the type of traffic you prioritized while your network is busy. If the task is performing better than it was before the settings, you can be pretty sure that QoS is working.
If you've prioritized specific devices against being affected by heavy downloading, you can run Speed Test on the devices that you haven't been restricted. Run the test while the "restricted" device is downloading. Hopefully you should see good down/upload speeds on Speedtest.
If you want a more indepth look at how QoS is working on your network (on the LAN and to/from your gateway/router), you can use software like PRTG that monitors your network and can tell you exactly if your QoS is working and notify you of any problems.
Hope this article has helped you with all your network prioritization needs. If you have any questions, just drop them below!