Posted by Ruth Goldacre

Posted 31 March, 2020 OBI BLOG

Working from home sounds like an attractive option for many when they are up early for a long commute to a challenging day in the office. But now we have no other option but to work from home, new challenges such as keeping connected to those individuals we work with, who used to be within touching distance is proving more difficult. IT solutions like Skype, Microsoft Teams and Whatsapp are doing their best to facilitate contact, but what if the foundation of these operations, i.e. the internet, is holding us back? Here are some ways you can improve your home connectivity whilst it’s so crucial.

Step One: Understand your internet plan

This may sound mundane, but particularly if you live with a partner or parent who organises the internet connection, or are in rented accommodation where the landlord assumes responsibility for that kind of thing, you might not have poor internet but a poor plan (e.g. only permitting certain speeds) that doesn’t suit your needs. Do your research and find out who you have signed up with and what you have signed up for before moving on to step two.

Step Two: Check your internet speed

Now you have determined what speed you *should* be getting, you must cross reference it with the speed you are actually getting. Websites such as https://fast.com/ can tell you instantly. Put simply, the higher the Megabits per second (Mbps), the faster your internet. For example, if a plan guarantees speeds above 17Mbps, but can go as high as 40Mbps this current speed of 27Mbps is not a cause for concern.

Phone apps such as Speedtest by Ookla will also save your history, allowing you to see how your speed performs over time.

If your speed is below what was sold to you by your provider, you should make contact with them. Bear in mind you should take a number of speed tests at different times as the internet self regulates and during very busy periods the ‘pipe’ is set up to automatically constrict, thus allowing less data to pass through to you.

If you are achieving the speeds that were sold to you but it is not sufficient for the work you are undertaking, you should also speak to your provider to negotiate a new plan. Remember, others in the household using the internet at the same time will affect its performance.

However, it is possible the issue may not be with your speed but with your connection. See steps three and four before speaking to your provider.

Step Three: Improving your router connection

If you have had your plan and accompanying router for a number of years, this might affect its performance. Check with your provider what version of router you have, and if it can be improved to give you better speed and coverage.

It is also important that your router is located centrally and not blocked by any walls or devices that may interfere with the connection.

It is also possible to get Wi-Fi extensions for your router. This will mean more of your property can be served and with a stronger connection.

A new approach to Wi-Fi extension is mesh Wi-Fi. Unlike a traditional router, it blankets your home under the same network, which means you don’t have to deselect and reselect different networks like a traditional router. Additionally, the individual ‘routers’ don’t need to all be in proximity to the original Wi-Fi box, they can communicate with each other independently to offer you the best connection.

If you are unable to work in such close proximity to the router, a powerline is your answer. It connects the router and where you are working through your home’s electrical circuit. It acts as a physical network cable to the router.

Step Four: Check your other devices

It is possible something else in your home is influencing your Wi-Fi connectivity. Much of our everyday technology operates on the same radio-frequency as a Wi-Fi router and can cause interference. It is most commonly reported with microwaves. Therefore you should avoid using devices such as Bluetooth, cordless telephones, toasters, touch controlled lamps and baby monitors when using applications that require a strong Wi-Fi connectivity, such as video calling.

Step Five: Use your phone

Given the above steps may seem lengthy, and not offer you the immediate solution you are looking for, you may find your mobile network provider offers you better service whilst you are figuring it out. Most likely, your phone will have a built-in hotspot setting to which you can connect your PC or laptop. This can be a costly solution and your mobile plan may not currently offer you enough data usage to facilitate full time home working, so again it is best to investigate your plan and adapt your home connectivity to suit.