PART 1 Setting Basic Expectations and What Lightning Will Do For You
The purpose of this guide is to help those who are considering Lightning and of course those who have already signed up for Lightning.
Bright House Lightning is a Docsis 3.0 service with current speed of 40mbps down and 5mbps up and comes currently configured with an integrated modem/wireless N router combination. There are no other configurations such as stand alone modem at this time.
Before we get too deep into things lets talk about what to expect from Lighting and who will benefit most from this level of service.
If you have a single older or current technology computer with no other networking devices or needs and simply use your computer for BASIC web surfing (meaning no more than a few of simultaneous web pages and email and no other net services utilized) then Lightning wont benefit you and you should consider either the 20/2 or 10/1 products.
You will benefit from Lightning class of service if your house has any combination of:
Multiple online computers, game consoles, streaming video appliances (Netflix & BDLive enabled DVD players and Televisions) , iPhones, iPads, Netbooks and other similar internet enabled devices
Offsite backup with services such as Mozy, Carbonite
Home Office, Work From Home or Home Agents
Web enabled home security systems including video monitoring and/or home control systems
Users who frequent YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and other web based video streaming sites
Users who frequently download large applications, files, pictures and music through any means including FTP, P2P protocols
Users who stream music from any number of sites including Pandora, Radio AOL, Groove shark, Napster, Slacker to name a few (especially if you have multiple simultaneous users in the home doing this)
I think you pretty much get the idea
right? If you dont fit into any of the categories above you might want to post here in the forums your reasoning behind getting Lightning and get some responses back first before making the big decision. This way you arent disappointed when you get the service only to find out it didnt do what you expected.
PART 2 Know Your Equipment & Capabilities
I cant count how many times Ive talked to someone who said their internet was slow, blaming it on their provider and crying foul only to find out they were operating on antique PC (um
thats any PC 5 years or older folks) running Windows ME with 512mb of RAM. Guys hardware and software does matter and you cant expect to be driving at full speed on the Autobahn with a Yugo. So before you even consider Lightning lets get realistic about your capabilities and expectations.
There are some minimum PC standards you should consider before even attempting to buy into Lightning and they are:
Pentium Class CPU or better
512mb of RAM or better
80gb of Hard Drive storage or better
Gigabit LAN Adapter (some 10/100s will work
many will not and well touch on this later)
Windows XP, Vista or 7, Linux, Mac OS X+ or Better
The above is suggested for BEST performance. Im not going to say something with less capabilities wont work but dont be surprised if you dont see the performance you expect.
Although were going to cover this in great detail later here are some minimum router standards you should consider if you plan to use your own router.
4 Gigabit LAN Ports
1 Gigabit WAN Port
High Performance CPU capable of more than 256 simultaneous TCP/UDP sessions
Some good examples of routers with these capabilities are:
If your router doesnt meet these standards, plan to use the integrated wireless router BHN will provide to you.
Okay, its time to take inventory of all your net enabled devices. Since the majority of you interested in Lightning have multiple devices and a router we will assume going forward that you currently have a router.
On a piece of paper write down each device, its connection method (wired or wireless) and leave room for its current IP address, sub-net mask, required ports and if you know it any port forwarding requirement settings in your router for that specific device. Also include the approximate distance from your router in feet to each device.
PART 3 My Router or BHNs Integrated Router, Which One Should I Use?
Ill make this easy for those of you who dont have a router, if you fall into this category skip this part and go right to PART 4 because you will be using the BHN router for now (as your needs change you can also install your own router later).
Okay, so that leaves the rest of you with that pesky questions what should I do? Break out that list I had you make and lets get down to business. Well almost
The integrated router thats included with Lightning is a general purpose Gigabit Wireless N router and when I say general purpose I mean just that. It has a built in SPI Firewall and offers basic functions like port forwarding and triggering and for most people will be more than they need for their basic home network needs.
Well youve made it this far, now its time to take another test to see if you will go on to read more in this section or also be one of the many to skip to PART 4.
Do any of the following conditions apply to you?
The router I currently own is not rated as a Gigabit AND Wireless N class device
What is Port Forwarding or Triggering? I have no clue what this means
I only have a couple of computers and normal wireless needs if any
SPI Firewall? Whats that?
I dont know if my router is a Gigabit and Wireless N class device
I have a Gigabit AND Wireless N router but I never configured it, just plugged it in and its worked fine for me
My router needs are basic, simple port forwarding and no specialized network devices on my home network AND I feel comfortable making basic changes to my router without assistance
I live in an apartment with basic networking needs, simple port forwarding and I feel comfortable making these changes myself
If you can identify with any of the above conditions its time to skip to PART 4, you will also be using the BHN integrated router and will most certainly be happy.
Still with me? Great! Now its time to get real with your router needs and technical expertise.
If youre reading this you already own a Gigabit Wireless N class router AND you have specific networking needs and a moderate level of router configuration experience OR your network was custom designed by a professional and already meets these specifications and to significantly change things would cause a great disruption in your home networking life (this would be bad if youre married with children). In short, you will be using your own router for your network which means no disruptions and only one thing for you to do when the tech leaves (call BHN and have them place your modem into Bridge Mode). Write this down on the list weve created as you will need this later.
If the above paragraph does not apply to you then you should also use the BHN provided router.
PART 4 - Wireless or Wired, What Should I Do For Best Performance?
Lets not beat around the bush, if you want the best performance out of any broadband connection you need to have it hard wired and Lightning is no exception to this rule. But since I know many of you just dont want to or cant run wires all over your home I guess well have to compromise somewhere.
Wireless is great for some things that truly need to be portable but most people have misconceptions and exaggerated expectations of wireless technology capabilities. Part of this due to outright false claims and specifications by manufacturers the other by just a ton of misinformation floating around the internet.
Wireless technology is not meant to replace wired connections where wired is possible and users who decide to use wireless instead of a wired connection must be willing to accept the many problems and frustrations that often result. My goal here is to show you which things should be portable and which things should be wired for best performance.
One thing you also need to consider, your wireless configuration experience. If you are a complete wireless noob then you better get yourself up to speed quickly. Although BHN will provide you with a wireless router, configuring your wireless devices and connecting to the router is YOUR responsibility. BHNs technical support will only provide the most basic of wireless assistance with that router. To help you along with this you might consider picking up a book like Wireless Home Networking for Dummies.
The typical 2010 home or apartment has the broadband connection installed in the den or home office and connected via a wired connection to a desktop or stationary laptop PC. Also found in your typical 2010 home is a game console and net enabled DVD player in the living room and if you have children probably one additional game console in a bedroom somewhere. In my travels Ive found that most of these secondary devices are connected via wireless network and for the average person this might seem to work well most of the time (or at least thats what people think). In reality they dont and when these devices act up the typical response of the user is my broadband service sucks when in fact it nothing to do with the broadband service at all.
Therefore the purpose of this section will be a simple set of rules to follow when determining what devices will be wired and what will be wireless with the primary goal being maximizing that Lightning connection capability.
Now I know some of you are going to strongly object to some of my suggestions so Ill say it now
.do you want things to work right at full potential or not? If you arent willing to take this advice and do it right then this entire guide is a waste of your time. On the other hand if you do things just as I suggest you will always get the maximum enjoyment and benefit from your Lightning service or any broadband connection for that matter.
Remember that list I had you make? Its finally going to come into play for this section but first lets classify the devices on your list as follows.
The following devices are considered stationary and should be labeled with an S (go ahead and do this now):
Stationary Laptops with/without docking stations
Netflix, Pandora, Blockbuster enabled DVD players, Tivo, Stream Boxes (Sling box), Televisions, Media Centers, Game Consoles
Security and Home Automation Systems
Network Access Storage (NAS) Devices (such as Synology)
While these devices may offer a wireless option they will never perform at the capacity that Lightning will offer them unless you reconsider your connection method. You dont have to take my word for it
do it your way but dont go blaming your provider when things dont operate like you expected them to. I have an alternative for those who cant pull cable below that works far better than wireless for most applications.
The following devices are considered mobile and should be labeled with an M:
Wi-Fi enabled phones
Laptops that commute between work/school and home
iPods, iPads and other Tablet Based PCs
Wi-Fi enabled Security Cameras
Handheld Game Consoles
Okay, now how many of each device type do you have? If you have no devices labeled with an M then you can pretty much count on your entire network being wired in some way so I hope youre ready to either pull some cable or take advantage of the alternate solution Ill propose in a moment.
Wired networks will obviously give you the best performance but sometimes getting wire from point A to B can be a real problem. There are several ways around this but if you plan out your network properly its not that big of an issue. To keep things simple try to locate as many of the wired devices you can within your broadband termination point (closest to your router). There is no reason to have a NAS drive or streaming media server in another room because they run unattended and connect via the network to all your other devices so keep these devices close to your router if possible.
For those devices which must be located in a specific room of your home I strongly suggest that you consider Powerline Networking adapters. You can place these all over your home (so long as all outlets share the same breaker box) and you can add as many as needed to connect all your stationary devices. Here is one such device that I know works well and if you shop around you can find them at very reasonable prices. They come in two-packs or single adapter and you will need one at your router and then one for each additional wired room or location where you need to be connected to the network. You can use switches at each of these access points to connect multiple devices to one adapter.
Now before anyone cries foul, these devices arent like the first generation which did have significant issues. For most homes and apartments with their own breaker boxes these devices will perform very well. I suggest you buy them locally or from Amazon as returning them is not a problem should it be necessary.
If you have multiple devices at each of the termination points for these adapters I suggest you use a simple gigabit switch such as the Netgear GS605.
Simply connect the power adapter to the switch and each of your devices to the switch.
Alright time to move on to the wireless devices. Now if you have a small wood frame home or apartment the wireless router that comes with Lightning should be just fine (or if you have decided to use your existing router life is good). But lets be real about wireless distance from the router. Virtually every manufacturer out there touts their wireless routers being capable at distances up to 300ft (thats 150ft each direction from the router) and its hogwash! These are not real world ratings! They were all derived in a perfect world lab and you will never see these results. You should be very happy if you see 200ft (100ft each direction from router).
For those with big homes or hostile wireless environments there are a couple of ways to extend the range of your wireless network. The first way (and also happens to be the least expensive) is through the use of a repeater such as the Engenius ERB9250 ($50 approx).
Placing this device is simple. Locate the point on your wireless network where you are at about 50% signal strength on your existing router and plug this baby in. You can overlap these devices all over your large home as needed to cover virtually every dead spot. Ive used Engenius for years in both commercial and residential applications and they are one of the best kept secrets in long range wireless at very reasonable prices. I wont lie to you however about their documentation
it sucks so be prepared to learn a few new things by trial and error (if you get stuck just message me).
Your second option is to use one the Powerline Network Adapters previously mentioned and an access point such as the Engenius ECB9500.
Although this device can also function as a router and bridge you will want to configure at as an access point. You can also place this combination all over your property covering all the dead spots but it is most definitely the more expensive way to go (but it will give better performance over the repeater method suggested above).
Well this pretty much covers what you need to know from a what works best wired vs. wireless perspective. If you have any questions about how to implement any of these ideas by all means let me know and Ill do my best to help you out. Keep that list handy because you may need it again for other sections.
PART 5 Speed Testing & Realistic Expectations
There are a multitude of speed testing websites to be found on the Internet. Some of these testing services are provided by the ISP, while many are provided by independent third parties. Naturally the key question is, Is the speed test accurate? And if the speed test results do not meet expectations, does the tester provide the data to resolve the unexpected results? In most cases the answer is no.
Unfortunately, all speed tests are not created equal and the testing applications rarely define the method used to conduct the test. To further confuse the issue there are a bunch of bogus speed test websites floating around on the internet and of those that arent bogus most fail to give consistently accurate results and should not be trusted.
Without understanding the testing methodology, validating the results is a difficult or impossible task for the user, regardless of their skill level. The complaint most echoed around the Internet discussion groups is, Why is this video download taking so long when my speed tester shows I get my full 20Mbps?
The problem is not the in the measurement, it's in understanding the test results as they relate to the application problem being experienced. Causing more frustration is that most sites don't take into consideration all aspects of current broadband technologies such as VoIP, IPTV, QoS and streaming video and audio.
That having been said its very important for you to look at each issue independently and understand whats going on and who is actually responsible for it before going off half cocked and blaming your ISP. Your ISP can only control issues on their network and nowhere else.
When you get installed the tech is going to run several tests to make sure you are getting the advertized speeds. He may use his laptop or your computer connected directly to the modem/router. Make sure you are around when he performs these tests. He/she will most likely test to one of the following two sites »speedtest.tampabay.rr.com
. These are whats known as ON-NET tests and you should expect to see somewhere around 38 to 40mbps down and 4.5 to 4.8mbps. These numbers will vary slightly from test to test, computer to computer and they include expected network overhead. Assuming everything is working fine you now have your benchmark test and everything is working normally at least from the standpoint of speeds.
Here are a few ground rules about speed testing:
Do not obsess over speed and speed testing. It is not necessary to test daily or even weekly UNLESS you think there may be a problem and even then be careful how you interpret the results (they are only benchmark and not a definitive that something is wrong). Speed test results will vary for a ton of reasons so dont be surprised if your results vary from test to test.
The only speed tests BHN support will recognize are the two ON-NET tests at »speedtest.tampabay.rr.com
. Dont bother mentioning other speed test site results as your evidence of a problem as the information will not be considered. No ISP will recognize anything other than ON-NET results.
Dont complain to BHN or any ISP about issues with Peer to Peer (P2P) or UseNet Feeds speeds period. These types of applications are entirely dependent on the seeders or servers (and associated networks traversed) providing this data and have nothing to do with BHN or any ISP. Its not that they dont want to help you; they cant help you as it has nothing to do with their network.
Dont complain to BHN or any ISP about issues with YouTube, Netflix, Hulu or any other streaming media provider UNLESS you have a verified speed issue on »speedtest.tampabay.rr.com
or whatever ON-NET test your ISP uses. Its not that they dont want to help you; they cant help you as it has nothing to do with their network.
Dont test your speeds for reporting purposes via any WIRELESS connection. Always use a hard wired connection (meaning directly connected to the modem/router) for testing a delivered speed issue that you plan to report to BHN or any provider.
Referring to 20mbps and higher broadband services including Lightning (which is 40mbps) dont waste your time speed testing OFF-NET speeds with sites such as Speedtest.net, Speakeasy, Internet Frog, Toast.net, Testmy.net, DSLR and most other sites as they will not produce consistently accurate results for speeds greater than 20mbps and in some cases will be so far off the mark as to scare you into thinking something is really wrong when it isnt. If you absolutely need an OFF-NET test that will do a good job of benchmarking post a question about it in this forum and someone here will guide you. Its not appropriate for me to toot my own horn but I know others here will point you in the right direction (you can always look at my profile for a hint).
Okay so lets get on to testing your speeds! But first there a couple of things you must do:
Turn off any P2P, FTP, Streaming, Downloads, Backup (Mozy/Carbonite) services you may have running.
Make sure you are direct connected to the modem or modem/router combination and not wireless
Disable any Anti-Virus or Firewall software for the duration of the test as they are known to skew results.
Turn off any network or internet acceleration tools you may have running (not a common thing but I needed to mention it)
Now in your browser visit »speedtest.tampabay.rr.com
and perform the test. Run the complete test 3 times and document each test result. Average the 3 results and thats a pretty good idea of your speeds. If your test average is less than 87.5% of your subscribed cap then there may be a problem and well deal with that in section 6.
Okay so you have your ON-NET test results and all is peachy but you still think things are slow
well also deal with that in section 6.
Otherwise enjoy your high speed internet.
Section 6 Monday sometime