Canadian Underwriter

This $40 product could solve some work-from-home bandwidth problems

April 7, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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Brokerages who are running into computer or telephone problems because they sent workers home during the pandemic could get useful tips from major technology vendors.

For example, Extreme Networks Inc. advises its own workers not to rely on their WiFi connection at home, if at all possible.

“If you can plug your own hard wire into your own personal router, that helps with contention on whatever WiFi you are using inside your home,” said Jeff Creasy, vice president of IT technology solutions at San Jose, Calif.-based Extreme Networks, in a recent interview. He was referring to the fact that Internet routers these days tend to provide both WiFi and wired connections to user’s computers.

A 14-foot Category 6 Ethernet cable is retailing for $39.99 plus tax at one electronics retail chain.

Canadian Underwriter asked experts in telecommunications and computer networking what business managers should keep in mind when making business continuity plans that would have  their workers off-site.

“If in a residence there are now five people – a combination of people working from home or entertaining themselves – there may be a whole lot of strain on the land-based bandwidth,” said Michael Strople, president of Toronto-based Allstream.

Related: Why home Internet service can pose a problem for brokers during COVID-19

“If you are streaming movies, you are just going to have to be more intentional about how you are consuming bandwidth, and maybe make adjustments in your schedule,” said Creasy. “With kids home playing video games, there are practical common-sense things that people can do to help manage whatever bandwidth they have.”

In a recent readership survey, Canadian Underwriter asked readers how satisfied they are with the way their own organization’s business continuity plan has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 45% said they were very satisfied while 40% said they were satisfied.

One respondent said most employees had access to work from home once or twice a week, so the transition was smooth. But that respondent noted there have been impacts on capacity/bandwidth of servers and hardware.

Employees working from home could ask whether their wireless data service has an option to complement their wireline Internet service, said Strople.

“If you have an iPhone or Android wireless cellular device, you can turn it into a hot spot and make use of the wireless data network. So that gives you a second option. Now you’ve got two networks, which gives you that redundancy and resiliency.”

But Strople is quick to add that you have to watch for overage fees. Most carriers are doing something about their data overage fees.

With wireless cellular, even if the plan is called “unlimited,” they often have a bandwidth cap. So after you hit your data cap, your bandwidth will slow down, Strople reported.

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