As businesses across the globe move employees out of the office and into remote working situations, there’s a tremendous burden on IT to make this all happen as quickly as possible.
Thankfully, the use of cloud services for most business applications and the pervasiveness of internet access and mobile devices has made the transition to remote work much less complicated than it would have been in the past. Still, it doesn’t eliminate all technology headaches – especially when it comes to ensuring employees have adequate internet and WiFi.
Here are five questions to ask employees about their home network to ensure they have the speed, performance, and security required to work remotely:
- Do they have adequate internet speeds?
- Is their WiFi router/modem causing performance issues?
- Would a powerline network adapter be an easy fix to their performance issues?
- Do they have a lot of bandwidth-heavy demands on their WiFi network?
- Is it their laptop or desktop that is slow?
- Are they using a VPN to connect for added security?
Do they have adequate internet speeds?
The level of service an employee has from their Internet Service Provider (ISP) can impact their ability to work productively, join video conference calls, or share large files and conduct other bandwidth-intensive tasks. To determine whether internet speeds could be the issue, start by having employees take an online speed test.
Most ISPs offer a speed test. Speed tests can be found on the providers home page or by searching using their provider’s name and “speed test.” Tests are simple to take, and just require employees to “start” the test, and then wait for the results.
While the faster internet speeds, the better, you may need to approach the issue from the perspective of what is the minimum speed your employees need to work from home effectively. For most videoconferencing solutions, the HD video calling requirements are 1.5 Mbps download speed and 1.5 Mbps upload speed. Large group video calls require up to 8 Mbps download speed. Using this as a standard, your employees would need a minimum of 8 Mbps download speed and 1.5 Mbps upload speeds.
Finally, if you are still running into challenges, be sure to check that the router and the modem (or in some cases, the router/modem combo device) are working properly. Often, the biggest cause of a slow internet is a bad modem, especially if its older. However, it might also be simply a bad cable between the modem and the router.
To determine whether internet speeds could be the issue, start by having employees take an online speed test.
Is their WiFi router/modem causing performance issues?
With the need for employees as well as other household members to work and attend school from home, there is likely more strain on the home’s network than normal. Because the router is the backbone of the connected home – enabling all digital consumption — it’s the first place you should start when troubleshooting performance.
The type of router, its age, and its location can all impact WiFi performance. Here’s what you should consider:
- Age and type of router If the router is older than three years or is a single-band router using 2.4GHz, it should be replaced with a dual-band router with 2.4GHz and 5 GHz. Dual-band routers with 5GHz offer faster speeds, better performance over longer distances, and can help resolve interference issues with neighboring WiFi. Additionally, look for a router with the ability to prioritize network traffic, such as ensuring that employee devices get priority throughput.
In certain cases, where there are a significant number of devices that need to connect, a tri-band router may work better than a dual-band router.
- Location of router Weakened signals or WiFi dead spots may also be the result of physical obstructions, such as doors, walls, and floors. Large homes can also pose a challenge as the router may not be able to reach into every corner of the house. In these instances, a range extender can provide extra coverage to a particular spot, such as a basement office. Another solution could also be using mesh WiFi. Using multiple WiFi nodes with mesh technology can improve overall performance and off-load some of the stress on your network by helping to extend WiFi coverage as well as balance the traffic on your network.
Would a powerline network adapter be an easy fix to their performance issues?
If you’ve already confirmed they have a modern dual-band wifi router and that their internet service meets the minimum requirements you set, but the employee is still having trouble meeting their streaming needs, a powerline network adapter might be a quick, low-cost, low-tech solution.
Powerline adapters can extend a wired internet connection throughout a home by transmitting the signals along the electrical wires already in the home’s walls. The technology is fast, can improve performance and speed, includes encryption, and avoids disruption in the powerline by working independently of line voltage and current frequency.
To install, your employee will just need to plug one adapter into a free power outlet near the router and connect it to the router with an ethernet cable. Then, powerline adapters can be plugged into power outlets near the devices that need to be added to the network.
Do they have a lot of bandwidth-heavy demands on their WiFi network?
If your employee’s router and internet speeds meet the minimum requirements, another issue could be there are devices on the WiFi that are using a lot of bandwidth and could be moved to the wired network. Stationary devices like Smart TVs, desktop computers, internet security cameras, and gaming consoles don’t need to be on the wireless network. Instead, have employees cable them to a switch, which will give them more WiFi bandwidth for mobile and IoT devices.
For most home networks, a simple unmanaged network switch should be adequate.
Is it their laptop or desktop that is slow?
If the issue is a slow desktop or laptop, a USB adaptor may be a good solution. A USB adapter can provide a more reliable connection to the available network signals through the USB port, overriding the computer’s built-in wireless functionality. This can improve page load speeds and make working from home a lot more productive.
Are they using a VPN to connect for added security?
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are an essential security component – and every business should use one when providing employees remote access to company resources. However, employees may not understand the importance of VPNs, so educating them on their security value is essential. It’s also important to communicate that they need to stick to work-only activities when using the VPN, and that some sites can cause a risk to the company’s security, so they need to avoid accessing inappropriate content via the VPN.
Getting an entire company’s workforce up and running remotely is a large undertaking. But, it is essential as companies work to implement social distancing practices to keep their employees safe and well. The good news is that with a few simple fixes can often resolve any issues.