5 min read

Work from Home (WFH) Slowing Down your Home Internet?

Work from Home (WFH) Slowing Down your Home Internet?

Does your home internet feel slower, less reliable, than it was, just last year? Are your once smooth, HD movies now looking pixelated and choppy? Are your conference calls difficult to understand?

 

Why is My Home Internet So Slow now that I Work from Home (WFH)?

“It was working fine, and we haven’t really changed anything.”

Just a few months ago, everyone in the household may have been streaming separate shows, and playing online games, or surfing the web, all without any issues. But now: that same internet connection feels inadequate for the tasks at hand. If this sounds like your home network, you’re not alone. But there is hope.

The demands placed on home internet connections are far beyond what they were just a year ago. With so many employees working from home, children attending school remotely, and the myriad entertainment options, today’s home internet connections have been pushed to their limits.

WFH Slow Internet

Before the COVID-19 lockdown, average homes were on track to use 344GB of data, up 350% from just three years ago, and 38 times the average from ten years ago. With the added pressure of Work from Home, and Distance Learning, and a large population of idle workers seeking entertainment, these numbers are expected to double or triple again before the year is out.

Image Courtesy of Digital Information World

 

“But I have Broadband at home. Isn’t that enough?”

Maybe. It depends on the usage. Streaming HD video is the biggest demand placed on home internet. An internet connection of 25Mb will support up to four users streaming HD video simultaneously. If you have more than four devices connected, and you probably do, then 25Mb can cause a bottleneck. Smart, connected devices, also referred to as Internet of Things (IoT), in the broadest sense is any gadget or device that's connected to the internet. The average household has approximately 16 devices connected. This includes gaming consoles, computers, smart TVs, cell phones, tablets, smart thermostats, door cameras, security cameras, baby monitors, and so much more. Today’s list of devices is extensive. 


The average household has 16 connected devices.


 

What is High-Speed Internet?

“But I’m paying for 100MB, that should be plenty, right?”

One source of confusion stems from how we measure a network connection. There are three main measurements that will affect performance:

  • Download Speed, measured in Megabits per second.

Download speed refers to how much data can be delivered to your connection from the internet, per second. For streaming movies or downloading files, this is the most important measurement. As long as the internet can deliver the scenes of the movie you’re watching, before you get to those scenes, the video appears uninterrupted. This is due mostly to Buffering.

Buffering is storing up data you don’t need right now, so it will be ready for you when you do need it. Since most video apps will buffer the next few minutes of the movie, and sometimes the entire movie, before you need it, you wouldn’t notice a brief interruption in the connection.

  • Latency, measured in milliseconds.

Latency refers to how long it takes a block of data to make the trip. Latency matters most when immediate communications are necessary. Gaming, Internet phone calls, and Video conferencing depend significantly on latency. If it takes a few extra seconds for part of your conversation to be delivered, it’s useless; you’ve already talked past that word that disappeared.

 

“Hi. How are all of you doing today?” may end up sounding like “Hi.         are all of       doing toda ?”

 

In a video call or conference, your image may freeze, too.  In a video game, you may miss the curve in the road, because your command to turn left, didn’t arrive in time to tell the gaming server.. so you crashed. Gamers call this “lag.”

  • Upload Speed, also measured in Megabits per second.

Historically not a real issue, since most home internet users were “downloading” content, not “uploading.” This is no longer the case. Multiple video conferences, and zoom classrooms can, and do occur simultaneously. If your home has three video conferences going at the same time, you may be exceeding the Upload limitation of your connection. Depending on your resolution settings, each zoom meeting may use between 1.5 – 3 Mb up and down. Typical home internet services range from 1Mbps to 10Mpbs upload speed. Three high resolution video calls will consume all that bandwidth, and video/audio will become choppy and inconsistent.

 

“How much internet speed do I need?”

Different households can have considerably different internet needs. A single person who uses the internet only to access social media won’t need as much internet speed as a family of five streaming HD video or playing Xbox live in every room.

Internet Speed, Work from HomeImage courtesy of highspeedinternet.com

 

What Can I do to Fix My Bad Wi-Fi to Improve my Work from Home (WFH) Experience?

“But I’m the only one online, and I’m just trying to sign into the zoom meeting for work. Why is it struggling?”

Here’s where things sometimes fall outside of your control. Most ISPs can deliver MORE bandwidth than their customers typically use. But if those clients create a surging demand, then performance will suffer.
The connection to your home is a portion of the connection delivered to your neighborhood. For most Cable connections, this is a shared pool of bandwidth. If you’re the only one online in your neighborhood, you get all the bandwidth promised (and sometimes more.) But if EVERYONE is home, binging on Hulu/Netflix/Disney+, then you may not get the bandwidth promised. The increased demand on their equipment will result in increased Latency, and decreased Download/Upload speeds.

 

“What can I do to make it better?”

There are a few steps you can take.

  1. Sign up for faster internet. ISPs are constantly upgrading their services, and new ISPs are available in most markets. Shop around and see if there’s a better option available to you.
  2. Reduce the number of simultaneous connections. This may mean asking someone to hold off on Game of Thrones until after your zoom meeting. If possible, try to schedule video calls and conferences so they don’t overlap.
  3. Remove noisy devices. If your connection is suffering, try turning off all the connected devices, and then bring them back online, one at a time, until you spot the noisy device. Once identified, you should scan that device for malware. That noisy device may be used by a hacker in an internet attack, consuming your bandwidth.
  4. Improve your wireless signal strength. The easiest way to do this is to be closer to your Wi-fi access point. You can move either the Access Point, or your device, depending on your hardware and the layout of your home. Some homes are built in such a way that you’ll have dead-zones – areas where your current signal cannot reach. If your device indicates that the signal is strong, then the problem isn’t your Wi-fi.
  5. Get a better Access Point. New APs have more efficient hardware, and often stronger transmissions. If you current AP is five years old, or older, you should consider upgrading to a newer model with advanced features and stronger signal strength. This may also help to secure your network, as older Access Points are more vulnerable to attack.
  6. Get a Wi-fi extender. The most affordable upgrade for most users, these devices have improved recently. A Wi-fi extender is simply another Access Point that receives the signal from your existing Access Point and presents a new AP with full signal strength. The Extender will have its own name [SSID] and you’ll manually connect to the strongest signal from your mobile device. These Access Points require no wiring, and can be placed anywhere in your house that has power, as long as it’s close enough to your original Access Point to receive a strong signal.
    If your existing Access Point has a WPS [WiFi Protected Setup] button, then installing an extender is very easy. Simply choose a location, plug the device into power [some just plug into an outlet like an air freshener] and press the WPS button on your AP and the extender, and they’ll connect automatically.
    CNET gave high marks to the TP-Link RE220 WiFi Extender. At around $35 it’s a reasonable solution for most homes.
  7. Get a Wifi Mesh. If your home is larger, a single Extender might not solve your problem. Also, if you expect to move freely around your house, without disconnecting and reconnecting to the best signal, you may need a Mesh solution.

    These are multiple Access Points that communicate with each other and the internet. They are more sophisticated than a simple Wi-fi extender. Your laptop or tablet will connect to a single SSID and will find the nearest AP, switching as you move through the house. Once difficult to install and maintain, newer models are very easy to setup and use.   Google Nest WiFi, or Amazon eero mesh WiFi are both easy to install and can cover a typical home in strong signals, for under $300.


    Get help working from home securely and efficiently by calling our Kennewick, Washington office at 509-396-6640 or our Bend, Oregon office at 541.848.6072.
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