Although the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, remote and hybrid work remains a necessity for many businesses across the globe. With millions of employees now working from home, IT teams are faced with unprecedented challenges in ensuring stable and reliable internet connectivity on residential networks they don’t control. In my time at Bigleaf, I recognize how this work culture shift has impacted businesses and amplified the detriment of internet downtime. For employees and IT teams looking to better navigate these challenges, consider these key insights and tactical tips.
Understand the limitations of residential internet service
Residential internet services differ significantly from business-grade connections in terms of infrastructure, service level agreements (SLAs) and bandwidth allocation. Recognizing these differences can help you manage your expectations and better address connectivity issues. For instance, residential internet service providers (ISPs) often oversubscribe their services, meaning they sell more bandwidth than they can actually provide, which is akin to airlines intentionally overbooking flights. And users often contend for bandwidth with other household members streaming movies, gaming or engaging in other activities that consume internet. For remote and hybrid employees, this can lead to bottlenecks and slowdowns, especially when numerous users are working from home simultaneously.
Ensure that your employees are aware of these limitations, and encourage them to communicate with their ISPs about potential upgrades or adjustments to their service to accommodate remote work.
Troubleshoot home networks
The home network environment can be vastly different from a controlled office setting. Employees’ home LANs and ISPs may have various devices and configurations that are difficult for IT teams to troubleshoot remotely. Add the complexity of maintaining VPNs and firewalls in multiple locations and connectivity can become quite complex for workers to navigate.
Businesses should opt to provide employees with resources and guidance on how to identify and resolve common home network issues, such as router resets, WiFi signal optimization and addressing network congestion.
Prioritize business-critical traffic
One solution to connectivity issues is to prioritize important business traffic over non-critical applications. This may be achieved through manual adjustments or by configuring Quality of Service (QoS) settings on residential routers.
Educate employees on how to identify high-bandwidth applications that may be affecting their work-related tasks and provide guidance on how to optimize their network settings to prioritize business-critical traffic.
Leverage SD-WAN technology
Software-Defined Wide-Area Networks (SD-WAN) can help optimize internet service in home offices by automatically detecting the needs of business applications and intelligently adapting traffic in real time. Bigleaf Home Office, for example, supports single-circuit connections typically found in homes and can also use two internet connections to load balance traffic and perform automatic failover.
In hybrid work environments, it’s critical for on-premises workers to leverage SaaS products and cloud-based tools that enable collaboration and communication with remote workers and customers. Without intelligent load balancing and same-IP failover, the risk of operational disruption greatly increases.
Research and invest in SD-WAN technology to improve internet connectivity and performance for remote and hybrid employees.
Recognize the limitations of speed tests
Speed tests can be misleading, as some ISPs may prioritize speed test traffic to minimize customer complaints without addressing the real source of internet problems. Instead of relying solely on these tests, consider alternative methods to diagnose and address connectivity issues.
Encourage employees to reach out to their IT teams or ISPs directly to report connectivity problems and provide additional resources or tools to help diagnose the root cause of the issue. For those organizations that utilize SD-WAN technology that offers operational insights, the speed in which IT can troubleshoot and resolve connectivity issues is greatly reduced.
Establish clear communication channels
Effective communication is crucial for addressing internet connectivity issues in remote and hybrid work environments. Ensuring that employees know who to contact and how to report issues can expedite resolution and minimize downtime.
Set up dedicated communication channels, such as a helpdesk ticketing system or a designated Slack channel, for employees to report connectivity problems and receive assistance from IT teams.
Implement a backup connectivity plan
Inevitably, internet outages and downtime will occur. Having a backup connectivity plan in place can help employees continue working without major disruptions. Encourage employees to identify alternative locations with reliable internet access, such as co-working spaces or local libraries, or consider providing mobile hotspots as a backup option for critical team members.
Educate employees on best practices
A well-informed workforce can help prevent and mitigate internet downtime. Educate employees on best practices for maintaining stable and secure internet connections. Offer training sessions or provide resources on topics such as optimizing WiFi settings, securing home networks and managing bandwidth usage.
Monitor and analyze connectivity data
Understanding the trends and patterns of internet downtime can help IT teams proactively address potential issues and improve overall connectivity. Implement network monitoring and analytics tools to gather data on internet performance and use these insights to identify areas for improvement and optimization.
Foster a supportive culture
The silos that inevitably come with remote and hybrid work environments can be challenging for employees, especially when faced with internet downtime. Fostering a supportive culture can help alleviate stress and promote a collaborative approach to addressing connectivity challenges. Encourage empathy and understanding among team members, and promote open dialogue about connectivity issues and potential solutions.
By addressing internet downtime challenges head-on and implementing these tactical tips, companies can create a more resilient and efficient remote and hybrid work environment. As we continue to adapt to new ways of working, embracing innovative solutions and fostering collaboration among IT teams and employees will be essential to navigating internet downtime and ensuring a seamless work experience.
Internet downtime has become a significant challenge for remote and hybrid workforces. By understanding the limitations of residential internet services, troubleshooting home networks, prioritizing business-critical traffic, leveraging SD-WAN technology and recognizing the limitations of speed tests, employees and IT teams can work together to minimize downtime and ensure a seamless work experience.