The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many people to work from home but what if your internet connectivity is poor? Here are some steps you can take.
All over the world, millions of people are now adjusting to working from home as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads. That brings numerous technology frustrations, not least how to cope when internet access is patchy or not functional at all. Parts of Western Europe have seen internet traffic increase by up to 70% , while parts of the US have seen a 25% increase.
Most of this is video, which typically accounts for around 60% of consumer internet traffic under normal conditions. The pandemic has boosted the use of video for meetings, as well as the number of people streaming from Netflix during their breaks. In Europe, Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube have, therefore, agreed to reduce video quality to lighten the load.
Despite that, however, most analysts agree that networks are coping well with the increased traffic. If you are struggling to connect then you are either in an area where typical internet speeds are low, or the problem is within your home network. What can you do about those problems?
Finding the bottleneck
In the first place, you need to find where the problem lies. You can use an online tool, such as Speedcheck, to measure the speeds you are getting from your internet service provider (ISP). But you need to do that from a computer with a wired connection to your router. If you do it from a computer on the wireless network, then you will actually be measuring the speed of your WiFi.
If the speeds from your ISP are low then contact them to see what can be done about it. Perhaps you can temporarily increase speeds by moving to a different package. If the broadband connection to your home is slow but your mobile data connection is good, then you could use your phone as a hotspot and route your activity through that network. However, before you do that check your data allowance and how much you will have to pay for extra data.
If the speeds to your router are good, then any slowdown is likely to be caused by your home WiFi network. Perhaps there are too many people in the house working from home and homeschooling? With all of them competing for data, the network might well struggle. Consider carving out specific times when other people need to be off the network so that you can make an important video conference.
Workarounds for slow connections
Another possibility is that parts of your home are simply not getting a good WiFi signal. If that’s the case then consider buying a mesh WiFi system, which uses booster stations in different parts of the house to ensure good coverage. Alternatively, try a powerline adapter, which uses the electrical wiring in your home to send internet data to hard-to-reach areas.
Whatever the cause of your sluggish internet, there are some practical measures that you can take.
The fewer devices on the network, the better. Your computer, phone, tablet – and those of others in household – are probably always connected and your TV, games console, smart speakers and even thermostat might also be online and sharing data. Try disconnecting the ones you don’t need.
Make sure that you communicate the situation to co-workers and any customers and clients that you deal with. Start meetings by running through the plan if the call drops. Most business conferencing tools give people multiple ways to join. If your internet speeds are not sufficient for a video call, then use voice only. If you can’t join from your computer, then try dialing in on a mobile phone or fixed line.
Once you have systems in place, you can spend less time working as your own IT helpdesk and more time getting your actual work done.