Making Home Internet Work
How to support connectivity for business applications when everyone works from home
The challenges of managing IT for our newly remote workforce cannot be overstated. As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered our offices, the number of Americans working from home went from 15 million to an estimated 92 million. That means you have gone from supporting one, or maybe a handful of sites, to supporting all the business apps your users need on different devices connected in different ways to different ISPs.
As in-person meetings move to video conferencing apps and files are flying around inboxes and collaboration tools, your users are leveraging more digital apps than ever. They need fluid video and at-the-ready resources, while hooked up to a home internet service that you have no control over. As funny as it is to see the CEO’s video get stuck in an awkward pose during an all-hands call, these connectivity issues are disrupting the key apps that run your business. With the coronavirus pandemic keeping us all at home for the foreseeable future, it’s your role to lead your company to stable, reliable, working internet.
We’re wrangling terabytes on a system built for “Tiger King”
When trying to serve users at home, it’s useful to consider some fundamental differences in home and office internet contracts, infrastructure, and packages.
- Data has a harder path to travel to residences. ISP points of presence tend to be closer to offices than homes. This means that there’s more infrastructure between your home and the closest internet ‘hub,’ increasing the chance of something breaking or slowing down your data.
- Residential ISP contracts don’t have the service level agreements (SLA) that are usually a part of your business service. Your sales development rep Clara is now mission-critical from her home office, but does not have the power to enforce an SLA for service to her two-bedroom unit in the burbs.
- You generally don’t use all of your bandwidth at home and neither do your neighbors. ISPs build their business model on oversubscription: selling more bandwidth potential than they can actually provide because they know it is unlikely for all of it to be used – sometimes at 40 to 1. Now we are all working from home, and their calculations are way off. They become a bottleneck.
Their home network is a black box
At the office, you know your equipment. You probably installed and configured much of it yourself. Maybe you named some of your favorites. It’s OK, we see you. The point is, you are in control of your stack and you know how it works. Your users’ home LAN and the ISPs WAN may as well be a black box and you have no way to figure out what’s going on with it.
Your customers (a.k.a. team members working from home) have their own customers – the other family members who are using the network for learning and entertainment. The LAN can have all manner of devices and configs. How do you troubleshoot a connection you can’t see?
Give your traffic the right of way
The solution to internet connectivity problems is to prioritize the important business traffic above apps that are not business-critical. Sometimes, all it takes is a manual approach: Having your user identify the traffic hogs on their connection and curb their use – human or machine. This might be unpopular in the household, so for most users, you’ll need a more sophisticated solution. Configuring the user LAN’s Quality of Service (QoS) settings on their residential routers can help (if the router has a QoS capability), but only for problems that originate in the home. It won’t resolve issues between their ISP modem and the servers that host key business applications.
Bigleaf Home Office is a software-defined wide-area network, or SD-WAN, based on technology we have effectively delivered to support office environments. To optimize existing ISP service in the home office, Bigleaf Home Office automatically detects the needs of business applications and intelligently adapts traffic in real time. It supports single circuit connections that are typically found in homes and can also use two internet connections to load balance traffic and perform automatic failover.
Speed test results don’t tell you much
When users encounter a slowdown, their first port of call is frequently a web speed test like speedtest.net. When the results come back saying everything is peachy, they think their problem must have been a blip. We have found that some ISPs actively prioritize speed test traffic to reduce the number of angry customer calls. These popular tools can’t be relied upon to give you what you need to know to support them effectively.
With our technology, you get real-time and historical data and insights about what’s happening across your home office connections. So, when the call comes from a remote worker with internet or application issues, you’ll know what to do. Read about Bigleaf Home Office or request a demo if you want to learn more.