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Holiday decorations vs. Wi-Fi networks

MSNBC's Gary Krakow investigates a dire new warning about holiday decorations — what they can do to your home or office Wi-Fi networks — and what you can do to help.

A new survey indicates that your holiday tinsel could be interfering with your indoor Wi-Fi network.

AirMagnet, the wireless networking company that conducted the survey, measured wireless signal strength in a standard office setting both before and after introducing a change in the environment. In this case, that change was the hanging of holiday decorations.

And while those holiday decorations might seem innocuous, AirMagnet representatives say it’s difficult to predict how new elements might affect your wireless performance. But the Christmas wreath isn't the only possible culprit to your Wi-Fi problems.

“When new elements are introduced into an enterprise environment they have the potential to seriously affect the performance of the Wi-Fi network, by deflecting, absorbing or otherwise interfering with the wireless signal," says Chia-Chee Kuan, AirMagnet’s CTO and vice president of engineering. "During the holidays, it could be the decorations in an office, at other times it could just as easily be a new microwave oven or a metal shelving unit.”

To determine the effects of holiday decorations on Wi-Fi, AirMagnet used its own, proprietary tools. According to their research, holiday decorations decreased Wi-Fi signal strength by 25 percent.

These results, say AirMagnet, could be a big problem for businesses, since signal deterioration can result in sluggish and dropped connections for end-users. Inability to connect means decreased productivity and major headaches for IT administrators, says the company.

AirMagnet advises network administrators to regularly utilize wireless analysis tools both during the holidays, and throughout the rest of the year.

Wireless experts, like Craig Mathias of the Farpoint Group, agree that metal or electrically powered decorations could mess with your Wi-Fi. And this is especially true if your tinsel is placed near a Wi-Fi access point. But a little plastic garland isn't likely to give you problems.

If you do encounter problems, try moving your decorations around a bit. A foot or so in another direction could make all the difference in the world. And if you're able, moving the Wi-Fi unit a few inches could help as well.

If you have a problem — and all this helps — don’t forget to thank the people at AirMagnet for their sage advice.