Are you still working from home? That’s probably a silly question, of course, you are. Most everybody is still working from home. If you’re anything like the rest of us you’ve probably noticed intermittent internet issues. I know I have. When the pandemic first started, and everyone was stuck indoors, my internet took a NOSEDIVE. Everybody was online, streaming God knows what, trying to use business applications over residential connections.
If you think about why that happened, it makes sense. Over 90 million people started working and going to school from home at almost the same time. The system just couldn’t handle it.
Why couldn’t the system handle it?
That’s a very good question. And there are multiple factors we have to discuss to answer that. Let’s break it down into a few key points:
Residential Internet is a “Best Effort Network”
Regardless of what you might pay per month, you’re not guaranteed your subscription speed. There’s no way your ISP can provide that to you. It’d cost way too much. And they don’t have to provide it. For instance, if you’ve got a 100mbps connection, your ISP KNOWS you’re not going to be using 100mbps 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
No one does. But by providing the promised speed when you need it most, you’re fooled into believing you’ve got that 100mbps all day and all night long. Essentially, you’re conditioned to believe you’ve got a speedy internet connection.
If everybody’s home, trying to use that speedy connection at the same time, no one’s going to get what they were “promised.”
Residential Networks aren’t the same as commercial ones all the time
Why is that? Well, a couple of things.
- Geography – ISPs, and good internet service in general, are dictated by the proximity to central hubs. The closer you are to one of these hubs, like a city or big town, the more reliable your connection is. The further away you are, the weaker or less reliable the service usually is.
- Cost – As I said above, the cost of providing an internet connection is a big issue for ISPs. The cost of not having a stable internet connection for a business is also incredibly high. ISPs know that they can charge a business more money for a better, more reliable, and faster internet connection because the business requires one. The business, because they pay more, is entitled to more consistent and faster speeds since they’re paying to be connected and use the service more than a residential customer would.
All that said, bandwidth is still an important commodity for a business, and abuse of a company’s bandwidth can still cause service issues.
Enough exposition! Tell me how to speed up my internet!
Okay, okay! Here’s the good stuff! Here are a few BASIC things you can do while you’re working from home to speed up your internet:
- Turn off your non-business-related apps and services – It’s not rocket science people. We live in an IoT world. Media’s constantly being streamed. Data is constantly being pulled from and pushed across the web. That slows things down enough as it is. Now think about how working from home might be impacted by your media consumption habits or app usage. If you’re working from home, on your internet connection, limit what apps and services you’re consuming to business-related applications.
- Prioritize specific apps, services, or devices – Most people aren’t living alone in isolation. You’ve got family. Disconnecting from every service used in your household during the day might be nearly impossible. You might not be able to go completely cold turkey and cut everyone off from the things they need to stay sane in this crazy, mixed-up world and you’ll soon find yourself living a Lord of the Flies-esque situation. What you can do however is prioritize what devices and services get the most attention. Investigate your ISP’s parental control features to nip services like Netflix in the butt when your little darlings are supposed to be on Zoom learning from home. Check to see if your WiFi network allows you to prioritize a device’s internet connection. Look for something called a “Quality of Service” or “QoS” setting. If your WAP or Router has something like that you can ensure your laptop has priority over say, your smart TV, or one of the kid’s tablets. It’s not a perfect solution, but it can help.
- Sell your firstborn to your ISP for a faster connection – I’m kidding! Well, maybe not. But seriously, you can talk to your ISP about getting a faster home connection. They offer those plans. Depending on your provider it might cost you a little bit of money (or an arm and a leg) to upgrade. You’re still going to be on a “Best Effort Network” but it might be enough to widen the pipe so to speak.
What if you’re a business owner and need to make sure your employees can work from home effectively?
So far we’ve only talked about the things you can do on the residential side of things. If you’re a business owner and you’re trying to guarantee your employees can work from home effectively over a residential connection, there are a few things you might have to consider. Unfortunately, it’s harder to break down a step-by-step process, as each business’s situation can be drastically different, so please, bare with me here for a bit more exposition.
The primary thing you’re going to have to do is think differently about how you do business and how your employees are going to be accomplishing that while working remotely, especially when they have to compete with their neighbors for a steady internet connection.
While there’s honestly not much you can do to improve on an already kind of crappy situation, there are a few things you can consider.
Think about the technology you’re using and whether or not it’s up to the task. You probably weren’t expecting your workforce to be homebound for as long as they have been let alone at all. You probably weren’t ready for it. Heck, no one was.
That doesn’t mean you can put your head in your hands and curse your bad luck, you’ve got to get stuff done and find a solution to your problem. Most of the technology we previously used to work remotely has evolved dramatically. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean everyone’s changed with the times.
For instance, let’s consider the traditional VPN. They stink! They’re awful to use, and nobody likes them. They’re slow, they’re not reliable. There are better solutions on the market now and you’ve got to consider them.
One solution is Zscaler Private Access. Zscaler Private Access (ZPA) delivers policy-based, secure access to private applications and assets without the cost, hassle, or security risks of a traditional VPN. So in layman’s terms, ZPA provides all of the benefits of a traditional VPN but without any of the headaches. Zscaler’s cloud-based security platform is expressly designed to make sure enterprise-level internet traffic is protected.
Another option would be an SD-WAN solution like the one offered by our partner Cato Networks. SD-WAN is implemented as a network of SD-WAN appliances connected by encrypted tunnels.
Each SD-WAN appliance is connected to a set of network services (typically Multiprotocol Lable Switching or MPLS, and some Internet services) and monitors the current availability and performance of each of these services.
Traffic reaching an SD-WAN appliance is classified based on application and prioritized using a set of centrally-managed priorities before being sent out over the best available network link.
By converging networking and security functionality, an SD-WAN can eliminate the need to deploy expensive point security products at branch locations.
An SD-WAN with a large network of globally-distributed points-of-presence (PoPs) can provide high-performance, secure networking with centralized management and visibility.
Ready to take the next steps?
Atta-boy (or girl). I like your gumption! If you’re an employee, just follow the steps we mentioned above. If you’re a business owner and you’re looking for a better or more secure work-from-home solution reach out to us via our contact page.
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