With many of us making our home offices a full-time endeavor and with a future that looks like working from home will be an increasing part of our lives, giving clients and associates a good experience is key. No one wants to go through the hiccups and dropouts of your Zoom meeting, especially when you are discussing important topics! Here we offer some suggestions on how to assure that your home internet is stable and able to handle the load for today’s work environment.
Do this little exercise – find a way to see how many devices are actually on your network. Here’s one way to do this, or if you have something like the Google Wifi points, you may use their app. You’ll probably be surprised at the number of devices that are using up bandwidth (check also that all the devices are approved by you!). It’s likely that you have underestimated your needed bandwidth rather than overestimated it. Keep in mind also that streaming and Zoom meetings require a significant amount of bandwidth. I would recommend a minimum of 100 Mbps service, with a preference of 300 Mbps+. This will help alleviate the dreaded buffering or pixelation that dooms business calls to failure.
Use Ethernet Where Possible
You’ve probably heard that WiFi networks aren’t super secure. This is correct, though there are certainly things that you can do to protect yourself. No matter how good your WiFi is, you also may have dead spots or interference that could impact your signal. Using a wired ethernet connection is a good way to make yourself more secure and stable. Most modern homes now have cabling, though you will want to assure that you don’t have Cat5 wiring since that could potentially be slower than your WiFi in some cases.
Cable Modem and Router
When was the last time you checked on your cable modem to assure you have that equipment up to date? It’s worth a look and/or a phone call to your internet service provider (ISP). Cable modems can be a number of years old and don’t offer the same efficiency that newer models achieve.
Good performing WiFi is key and provided in a couple of ways. Sometimes the cable modem also has a router in it, though if it is older technology you will probably want to use your own router. Aren’t sure the difference between a modem and router? Here’s a helpful post.
Eliminate WiFi Dead Spots
If you have a larger home or want to assure that your WiFi signal can reach certain areas of the house (workbench, screened in porch, your WiFi enabled birdbath), you will probably want to consider a mesh network. Basically a mesh network is one network created out of a number of devices sending WiFi signals. The one I use is from Google. The nice part about using this type of network is it’s fairly portable, allowing you to move the “pucks” around if you are seeing a decrease in the quality of the signal in any particular spot. Furthermore, you may plug in an ethernet cable in many cases to make the connection wired.
Protect Your Network
There are a number of things you can do to protect your network from cyber attacks. Using strong, unique passwords will help wall off your exposure when (not if!) you are compromised. A password keeper such as 1Password will help you keep track of your passwords instead of that yellow sheet of paper you keep next to your laptop. Running regular virus and malware checks using software is also a good idea to assure you haven’t picked up something while you browse around. Avast offers a free virus protection program that’s easy to use. Finally, using a VPN creates a “tunnel” that shields your web browsing from your internet service provider and other prying eyes. This is also important when you go out to places that may have unsecured wireless networks as well.
Putting It All Together
If all of this seems like a lot, consider the role of each of the items discussed above. The pipeline into the home is provided by a cable. If you’re lucky, it’s a fiber optic one since they offer incredible bandwidth capabilities. The modem receives the signal from the cable, and the router helps move around the signal to different places, including the wireless network in many cases. Some will choose to set up a mesh network as an alternative, sending wireless signals from different points stationed around the house.
Regardless of how simple or complex your needs are, it is important from a business perspective to have a stable, secure network. Take the time to educate yourself and make the best use of your home office!