I'll say that under most use cases solarwinds is pretty overkill for home use, the smallest license size is still several thousand dollars.
Any suggestions? Would solarwinds trial help solve my problem?
Only if you only intend to monitor for under 30 days before the trial ends. PRTG offers a permanent free version for environments with under 100 elements, also Nagios/Icinga/Prometheus are all free. The trick part I think is that none of these tools are built with home users in mind. They all rely on you having a pretty technical understanding of how everything works. Honestly a monitoring tool usually isn't going to tell you why these devices are dropping offline either, just let you know when they fall off the network and when they come back and record some metrics that may or may not be directly relevant.
So getting into the technical side of actually chasing down your problem, a Linksys is a decidedly consumer grade router. Consumer grade inevitably means that they tend to be a bit buggier than what enterprises use, not as many features available, and what features they have tend to be a little iffy in terms of how heavily you can beat on them. The plus side is they are wildly cheaper than the industrial gear most of the people on this forum use all day.
50 devices actively using wifi in the same broadcast area is actually considered to be a pretty heavy load, even on industrial systems, because wireless devices work on a system where only one device can send traffic at a time (technically some routers can handle 2-3 at a time but for simplicity's sake). Imagine standing in your bedroom while 50 other people are in the house and everyone is shouting over each other trying to have their own conversations with one person who is in your office. In order to make it work only one person gets to talk, and if someone interrupts nobody knows what either of you were trying to say and you have to stop and repeat what you said. Even worse when the office is in the middle of the house, so a person in the bedroom cant hear a person in the kitchen so they *think* they are the only one talking, but the person in the office is trying unsuccessfully to follow to both conversations at once. It's a mess and just generally tends to be kind of hit or miss once you get to that kind of wireless density.
One solution is to move as MUCH of the conversation onto the wired ethernet as possible, especially the ones that tend to move a lot of data all the time like anything that people watch Netflix on or play online video games. The router usually would have no trouble at all with talking to 50 wired devices so the fewer chatty wireless boxes you have the better it works for the devices that HAVE to be wireless.
You mentioned having a wireless extender, these often will cut the amount of wireless speed you have available down dramatically because they basically just take whatever they hear and shout it into the next room. The only really good way to use an extender in a crowded environment is to run it over a hard wire from it back to the main router, in most other cases it just tends to make general broadcast noisiness worse.
Also make sure you have the latest firmware installed on all your devices, you usually want whatever fixes the vendor has bothered to release because the stuff they shipped is very often buggy right out of the box.
Next, make sure your router isn't getting hot. I have OFTEN found home gear that didnt have adequate ventilation so they would get warm and glitch out. Sometimes just using them to their "full" capacity is actually enough to over heat them even with nothing blocking airflow due to bad hardware designs that assumed nobody would actually use all the features they claim to support. I've known people to point a little desk fan at their wifi router to give it a bit more breathing room.
Your router may have some built in diagnostics to tell you which devices are connected, and how much traffic they are sending/receiving, you could keep tabs on that and at least know who your worst offenders are and see if there's anything you could do to cut that down, or offload it to a wired connection.
These forums are probably all going to be better resources for you to find help than getting hung up on setting up a pro style network monitoring tool:
Wow! Very thorough answer. Based on your answer, here is a current recap of my system:
- Probably 40% of my 50 devices are ethernet vs wifi
- My Linksys AC5000 router/switch has 8 ports, 3 of which go to other switches. The remaining 5 ports go to devices. I've set it up for a single SSID for both 5Ghz channels and one 2.4Ghz channel. The router uses channel steering, supposedly to optimize usage. I have the router set to automatic update on the firmware/software.
- I would be interested in suggestions for a resonably priced commercial wifi router/switch.
- My Linksys extender is CAT5 wired downstream of one of the secondary switches, set to use the same SSID (I wonder whether this is the best setting)
- The router is located in a coat closet but the drops don't correspond with whether the door is open or not, and the ambient temp is around 72F.
- I will check out the links this weekend.
If you have any other comments or suggestions they would be appreciated.
Thanks for taking the time.
I would think a system with a controller like ubiquity unifi or one of the newer mesh systems (like ubquiti amplifi or tp-link deco) would be beneficial as they are much better than extenders. The ubiquity software might give you some good insights as it will display the signal strength of the connected devices connected to wifi if that's what you are after but a mesh system will likely solve the problems without all the work.