In our household, we have a student in high school, a student in university, a middle and high school teacher, and a work-from-home business owner. The high school my youngest attends and my husband teaches at have already gone to a distance learning platform. My university student is also now on a distance learning platform. And I continue to be a virtual worker. This is resulting in a great deal of wifi use with all the video calls, data sharing, online presentations/webinars, in addition to the gaming breaks, social media video watching, etc.

Regardless of the lifting of the data limits by our internet vendor, I was concerned about the ability of our rudimentary home system – also called “traditional wifi” apparently (i.e. only one wifi modem servicing the home; no “mesh” or “signal boosters” to speak of) – to handle without failing the load of laptops, desktops, wifi printers, smart phones, gaming machines, music system, etc. So, I turned to my friends and business colleagues to figure out what we could be doing to ensure the best wifi experience possible without making a significant investment.

Best Possible Wifi Signal without Investing in Upgrades to a Mesh System

I called on Bob Kyriakides of Digital Hero to ask him whether there was anything I could do to best maximize signal output. After asking some questions (including “what is the square footage of the house?”, “Are there holes (paths) available from the basement to the first floor?” And my favourite, “How handy is the handyperson in the house?”… GULP!), he suggested the following simple two-step process:

  1. First, determine where the bulk of the use will happen (main floor, 2nd floor, basement? Front of the house, back of the house, all over?).
  2. Next, and ideally, locate the modem in the most central place possible, on the floor of and closest to the majority of devices, with as little obstruction as possible. As Bob reminded me “traditional wifi pushes out in concentric spheres from the source”, so it is best to keep the signal free from barriers like walls or floors/ceilings. (Note to self: next house has an open floor plan!)

For our situation, I realized that our poor modem is likely needing to make a move out of my office’s closet into a more common area but is already on the best floor for our family’s current needs (small miracles). I also discovered a little peace of mind goes a long way!

Please remember every case is different. Moving your modem won’t necessarily solve the wifi problems, but it could give some lift to your wifi signal. As always, check with your IT support professional for advice in your specific situation.

“Why do we have so many printers?” … Ummm, we don’t?

Another issue was identified when one of my household asked me, “Which printer do I connect to?” Apparently, when looking to connect to our air (wifi) printer, others came up on the “connect to” list. (Having our student’s research paper show up multiple times on my neighbour’s printer probably isn’t the best use of their office supply investment.)

Mind you, this usually only happens when someone’s wifi network isn’t secured. Don’t let this be you! 😱 Please ensure you are locking down your network and devices with passwords (p.s. don’t use “admin123”. Seriously. Don’t.). Again, check with your IT support company or resource on how to set – or change – your password on your modem or home network (Windows or Mac).

Yes, Lara, there is an anti-viral for that!

(Too soon? Sorry!) I received an email from Rob Schuetze of Aurora Online who wrote:

“Even though you are just seeing the screen of your work computer at home, it is possible to transfer files from your home system to work, and possibly bypassing the security and infecting your work environment.”

Say what now?!

Basically, if you’re logging in remotely to your work computer and transferring files, you had better ensure you have a good malware and anti-virus (that’s right, it’s not just SARS-CoV-2 we need to worry about!) software on your device to protect both you and your employer’s system. Here’s a link to a pros/cons report from PC Magazine. Both Rob and Bob recommend using Webroot and here’s why.

Another thought I had was about our home networks: have we password protected our devices and our modem? Might be something to look into.

Last thoughts on bandwidth (and I’m not talking about belt fashion)

With everyone working and studying from home, we’ll likely see some fluctuations in internet service reliability. Pixelated video with delayed audio on conference calls might not be something we can always avoid. (Or occasional high ping on Fortnite. Sigh.)

We’re all working through the same technology challenges during this crisis (including whether our microphones, webcams and speakers are doing a sufficient job on our Zoom calls); and we all could be a little more patient, a little more compassionate, and a little more forgiving… with our technology, our community and ourselves.

Be well. Stay healthy.

Until next time.