With millions of Americans working from home while also trying to continue the education of their children who are currently not in school, the availability of reliable and adequate internet bandwidth has become a challenge for many families.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, many Americans were already struggling with having enough bandwidth to provide to households that have seen an explosion in the use of internet-connected devices and streaming services such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Netflix, Disney+, and a host of others.
Here are a few tips to help your family work and stream successfully while at home together.
- Confirm your Internet Bandwidth Speed with your ISP
Internet speed packages have increased, but often providers do not upgrade your speed unless you request an upgrade. Visit www.speedtest.net to run a speed test to confirm the speed that you are receiving and compare that with the speed your provider indicates that they are providing. If you feel that you are due an upgrade, contact your ISP to see if they will give you one.
- Review your home internet infrastructure
Basic network browsing and streaming typically can be handled without any issues on a basic home router and wireless connection. However, with the combating needs for connectivity to corporate networks, online video conferencing, and student virtual lessons, now is the time to review your current internet setup. Some routers and devices can provide prioritization to provide the most critical applications, such as video conferencing, and school lesson access, more bandwidth than other services like Netflix and Facebook. Another challenge that many homes encounter is spotty wireless internet access. With coverage needed it more areas of a house than ever before, now is the time to review adding a wireless extender or upgrading your in-home wireless infrastructure to a system like Plume.
- Develop an internet access schedule
Although some routers might allow you to prioritize bandwidth or develop an access schedule, a more analog method is to create a household schedule to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. For example, restrict gaming or streaming of Netflix or Disney+ from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM to allow enough bandwidth to access the corporate network and educational platforms.
- Disconnect any unnecessary devices
Even with an internet schedule, many of today’s devices perform updates while in sleep mode. For instance, a Playstation or Xbox might be downloading a patch for Fortnite, Call of Duty, or other game even if nobody is currently playing on the console. More problematic are devices that are uploading data to cloud-based storage. This might be a smartphone with backing up your weekend home videos to iCloud. Make sure you don’t have a computer in your home running a torrent client that might be serving up files, as this will impact your internet performance. All of these issues can address with the tweaking of some settings, but sometimes simply powering them off is the best option in a pinch.
- Confirm service availability
While this isn’t necessary a step to conserve bandwidth, it might save you some time and frustration. If you have experience slowness of a particular website or online service, it’s possible they may be having an issue on their end due to the strain of the current situation. Searching for your service on a site like https://downdetector.com/ can uncover outages over all or in a particular region. Most services also have pages that indicate the network health of their products such as Microsoft 365 Status, Playstation Network Status, and Netflix Status just as a few examples. Twitter is also a great resource to check to see if you’re the only one experiencing service interruptions. Checking an organization’s official Tweets or trends can give you some quick realtime information.