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Let’s face it – being in IT is hard work. Being in IT with remote employees is incredibly hard. You’re supporting countless pieces of software along with SaaS backends, potentially hundreds of combinations of internet providers, RF environments, Wi-Fi routers, and other demands on the home environment. All of this when people are reliant on their devices to do 100% of their job. If you’re in IT supporting remote organizations, here are some actionable steps to help improve your work from home Wi-Fi environments for your team.
About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers has been managing an enterprise IT network since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.
Addressing speed problems
If your users report issues when working at home – the first thing to understand is the speed they’re paying for vs. the speed they’re getting. You can use a tool like the Speedtest app to do some basic measurements against what the employee is paying for with their internet coverage.
If you confirm a significant discrepancy between what they are paying for vs. speed getting, then start to ask more questions.
- How far are you from your router?
- How many walls are you going through? What are the walls made of?
- How many other devices are on your network?
- Is anyone else working at home or doing virtual school?
A simple test to determine if you have a Wi-Fi problem or an ISP problem is to have your user hardwire into their router and run a speed test. If you see dramatically different results – you have a local Wi-Fi problem. Unfortunately, these problems are hard to diagnose remotely. One workaround would be to have the employee have their ISP run a dedicated ethernet cable from their router to their primary workspace. Particularly for video calls/webinars – wired ethernet will be more reliable. You’ll need to add on a USB-C to ethernet adaptor. As the last step, an app like Pingr can be valuable to monitor your connection.
Another consideration if you have a Wi-Fi problem is to look at upgrading their router (or advising them to upgrade it). For home use, it’s hard to go wrong with eero 6 at the price point. I prefer the eero Pro 6, but the price point is a lot higher. If you have multiple people trying to work from home, a budget router will show its weakness.
If you plan to work from home permanently, it might make sense to have a mesh network where each node is hardwired. You’ll need to hire an electrician to run at CAT5/CAT6 cable from your main router to the nodes, but it’ll create a stronger network as a result. Some ISPs will also run cable for you as well.
Create a 5 Ghz only network
If you run into a situation where you can’t run ethernet to a laptop and have upgraded the Wi-Fi, but are still running into problems – creating a 5 GHz only SSID might ease some access problems. If the user lives in a crowded neighborhood RF-wise, getting them on a network that only uses 5 GHz might be a workable option for limiting interference.
If you run into a situation where you need to dig deeper into the RF environment of a user’s home, have them install WiFi Explorer so you can get an idea of what is around them.
If you have a poor-performing device that is being blamed on the Wi-Fi, it’s rather possible the machine itself needs some attention instead. While Macs are very secure, there are still various pieces of malware that can get installed. I recommend CleanMyMac X as a cleanup tool that can be run to diagnose Malware issues and clean up hard space in case the hard drive is full (another source of slowdowns).
Do you have any tips on improving network performance when working from home? Let me know in the comments below.
Photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash
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