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Tips to make the most out of your router

Take control of your internet connection with these tips about Router QoS

Were you ever in a situation where you almost pulled your hair out in anger because of a sudden unexpected drop in your Internet speed even after having a decent connection? Most people don’t realise the fact that it’s not the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who are always at fault for situations like these to arise. Often, problems like this can be because of your own local network settings and they can be fixed quite easily. This article’s aim is to get you (and your router) up to speed with something christened QoS. QoS, or Quality of Service as it’s called, is an aspect of networking that deals with the overall performance of a service like a computer network as seen by the users of the network itself. Basically, using QoS it is possible for a network to provide preferential delivery or better service to selected network traffic by ensuring bandwidth, controlling latency and more.

It’s much more complex than that.

Why is QoS needed?

When QoS is disabled in your router’s settings, bandwidth is utilised by everything without much thought to what each particular application does. Let’s take a short example: Say you are currently in an important Skype-based interview session with a recruiter from your dream company. At the same time, if your girlfriend who is in the other room decides to stream ‘Stranger Things’ episodes on Netflix, the quality of your Skype call can suddenly take a massive hit. This is because both Skype and Netflix are trying to utilise the bandwidth while your router is trying its best to share the bandwidth between both the services. All the while, there is nothing separating the two services in terms of which service should have priority over the other service with respect to the utilisation of available bandwidth.

The difference when QoS is setup Vs. When it’s not.

When a well thought out QoS scheme is applied to your network, you can then have a fluid priority control over applications and services such that the bandwidth and best ping time will be allocated to the service/application/user that you want. If you have a slower internet connection, QoS matters that much more since the bandwidth is limited.

Pre-requisites

Make a note of what services, applications and users you want to prioritize according to your own use case. Once you have a basic idea of what you want, it’s recommended that you go ahead and stop all downloads, uploads and most major bandwidth-hogging applications. This is done in order to run a speed test to determine your average connection speed. Knowing the speed that you actually receive at your end helps when you’re configuring QoS for your router. Run a speed test and note down the results for your connection.

Side-note: In case you are comfortable and know what your technical skill level is, we strongly recommend you to use DD-WRT firmware for your router if it is supported. DD-WRT offers a host of various QoS settings to play with.

Enabling QoS

QoS settings exist in almost every modern router and they can be configured by you. Considering that there are tons of different routers that everyone has and most of these routers are different in terms of their interfaces, features and capabilities, it’s difficult to provide a walkthrough that fits everyone’s router and/or use case. This is why we will try going through the most standard bits so that you can follow through with QoS configuration:

  • You’ll need to navigate to your router’s web-based setup page using its IP address (It’s 192.168.1.1 by default in most cases) and log in with your admin credentials first.
  • Navigate to the QoS tab. It can be found under any of these tabs in the menu: ‘Advanced Setup’, ‘NAT/QoS’ or ‘Quality of Service’ tabs.
  • Select QoS > “Enable QoS” > Click Save/Apply. In case you see ‘default DSCP mark’, ‘Queuing Discipline’ and ‘Packet Scheduler’ under the options, just leave them at default.

Effectively setting connection values

You will see text fields for “Downlink” and “Uplink” values within the QoS settings. It is advised to enter slightly reduced values for both the fields. This is done because QoS rules work by creating an artificial bottleneck such that the traffic passes as per the rules for QoS to work effectively. Do this – Refer to your speed test results > Multiply both the values by 0.8 to get a reduced speed value (80% of available speed) > enter the value > Click Save/Apply.

Prioritizing your network traffic

Prioritising traffic is the crux of QoS and most of it is done by setting prioritisation rules for everything under the sun. If you belong to the lucky set of people who have a router with easy QoS options, setting network priority is child’s play. Most of these tweaks can be done by performing drag-and-drop operations on a list of services. The most important services that you want to prioritise go to the top of the list, while those with the least importance in terms of network utilisation go to the bottom.

Many router configuration settings now provide sliders for setting priority. They allow you to set a percentage of your traffic under High, Middle or Low Priority. The general rule of thumb is to allocate 60% of bandwidth for High Priority, 30% for Middle priority and 10% for Low priority. Setting these values determines the quantity of bandwidth allocated to a particular service or application that you will set under the QoS priority rules. Make sure to be very critical while allotting bandwidth as the success of this ordeal will depend largely on this.

Service and Application Priority

Setting a network-wide application/service priority rule, such that every device connected to your network follows that priority when accessing said application/service, is also possible under QoS. You can set priority by each application in the sense that if, for instance, you have an FTP server setup and you want to allocate the highest priority for it then you should add FTP to the list of QoS rules along with other applications that are important in your use case. There might be a possibility where you don’t see a particular application/service listed under the rules, in that case, you can always select the ‘Custom Application’ option and manually add application details to add it to the priority list. Once you are done adding rules, Hit Save/Apply to save your changes and you should see your rules listed under the priority tables as per their order.

QoS Rules for Priority By Application

Setting Priority for connected devices

There might be instances where, although you have set QoS priorities for individual applications for everyone who accesses the network, you might still decide to have a more fine-grained control over the connected devices in your network as well. This can be achieved by setting device priority using the device’s IP address. To do that:

  • Go to the QoS tab.
  • Add new rule under the priority level that you want the device to have.
  • QoS rule type should be ‘By Device’.
  • Enter the name of the device or find it from the list of existing connected devices.
  • Select the device by identifying it through its Name or IP address.

The selected device(s) should now be a part of the QoS rule list.

The ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is an example of a router that is primed for gaming

This way, you can ensure that none of the devices in your wired/wireless network fall out of line in terms of bandwidth consumption while also following the application/service priority that we set initially. Finally, you can also tweak priority levels such that wired connections have priority over wireless connections or vice versa under ‘Interface Priority’ for even better control over it.

QoS for Gaming

More than half the battle is already won in terms of a QoS setup if you possess an expensive and powerful router that is primed for gaming. The ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is an example of one such router that we have tested at Digit. For setting up QoS with gaming at the centre of your use case, you can decide on a priority list that is similar to this:

Priority Level Type of Traffic
Highest Gaming
High Real-time audio (VoIP)
Normal General web traffic
Low Torrents

Many of these high-end routers feature adaptive QoS and even options for connecting directly to certain game server regions and if your router is one of them, you should definitely enable them to take advantage of those settings.

Don’t overdo it

Like all things in life, you should be critical in balancing your QoS rules such that they are minimal and quite selective. Meaning, you should not try and create 20 rules outright. Having an unnecessary number of QoS rules can introduce more issues than solve the ones you had previously. The best way to go about setting rules is by weighing in your individual use case and address it by creating rules only for the most important network issues you have. Another idea is to actually check the network step-by-step after every incremental change to the QoS rules so that you know what went wrong in case something did go wrong.

Siddhant Sharma