How to diagnose and solve home internet issues

Diagnosing Internet Issues for the Home Office

Residential internet connections can be a source of frustration for home office users. To a user, phone calls, email, and other internet activity appear seamless and automatic. But behind the scenes, each of these are broken down into packets of information delivered individually over a complicated tangle of interconnected computer networks – the internet.

 The internet is a “best effort” network; it does not guarantee that a packet of data will get to its destination in a particular time frame – or even in the right order. When working at home, residential internet connections can quickly run into use cases they just weren’t built for. A residential connection’s best effort might not be good enough for business applications.

The result will be slowing or loss of packets at the bottlenecks. Best effort is usually fine for file downloads where a momentary bottleneck won’t even be noticed, but more time-sensitive tasks like video conferencing and screen sharing will definitely feel the impact. This slowing will manifest as lag, jitter, frozen screens, and even dropped connections.

Locating the Source of the Problem

When there’s a problem with a home office’s internet connection, the first instinct might be to call the ISP. But before you get to that point, there are a lot of things you can do to isolate and treat problems within these networks.

The first step is to determine whether the problem is in the local area network (LAN) or actually with the internet service’s wide area network (WAN). This will help you narrow down whether you focus on issues within the home network or if you have to call the ISP.

One way to do this is by testing the network connectivity with the classic network diagnostic tool, ping. Ping tracks the time it takes for a short message to reach a destination and return. For this test, pinging the default gateway address on your LAN and a location on the internet will let you see whether the issues start inside or outside the LAN.

1. Open a terminal

To use ping, have the user open a terminal or command prompt on their computer.

Mac

  • Click the magnifying glass in the top right of the screen or press the Command button + Spacebar.
  • The Spotlight Search bar appears. Type terminal and then press Enter.

Windows

  • Click the Windows button and then type CMD.
  • In the results, click Command Prompt.

2. Determine the gateway or router

The quickest way is to find the gateway address is to type tracert bigleaf.net (or on a Mac traceroute bigleaf.net) in the terminal window and press Enter. The first address that appears is the LAN gateway.

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