COVID-19 has ushered in the world’s largest work-from-home experiment, forcing employees of all stripes to adapt to a home office setting in the interest of public health. For those unacquainted with remote work policies, adjusting from a work-from-home scenario can present a significant number of challenges.
Carrying out business as usual through a series of Zoom calls, Slack chats, and Google Docs can only be accomplished through a steady, persistent internet connection. But unlike a typical enterprise network that’s been engineered to handle an office’s worth of internet traffic, your home internet connection may not seem strong enough to handle bandwidth-intensive tasks like uploading large files or video conferencing.
Google Hangouts, for instance, requires a minimum bandwidth of 300 kbps, but recommends outbound speeds of at least 3.2 Mbps and inbound speeds of at least 2.6 Mbps for two-person video calls. Speeds like these may seem achievable when you’re the only one using the network, but once you add a spouse working from home and kids streaming Netflix over the same connection, bandwidth quickly gets tight.
If you’re tasked with working from home, but are experiencing slow internet connections, here are 5 simple steps to speed up your internet connection.
Find Your Speed
If your internet seems slow, it’s important to determine your actual internet speed before you start making changes to your network. While many ISPs may advertise an internet speed that’s “up-to” a certain amount, actual speeds can vary widely in real-world usage.
Speedtest.net or a simple Google search of the phrase “speed test” each provides access to a simple, one-click test that measures your real-time upload and download speeds. (Before running this test, be sure to pause any downloads, streams, or other data-intensive tasks to ensure an accurate result.)
Check Your Router
If your speed test confirms that your internet speed is slower than you’d like, it’s time to restart your wireless router as the first step toward troubleshooting your issue. Restarting your router may seem like an overly simple solution, but cutting power allows your device to clear its memory and return to a fresh state. To properly reboot your wireless router, be sure to completely unplug its power cord and wait at least 30 seconds before powering back on.
Should restarting your router not deliver a noticeable improvement, it’s possible that the device is poorly positioned in your home. When placed in a far corner of the house, near a brick wall, or on low shelving, routers can encounter interference and deliver sub-optimal performance. Move your router to a centralized location in the home at the highest possible position to spread its signal far and wide. If your router isn’t capable of blanketing your entire home with strong Wi-Fi, consider upgrading to a wireless mesh network made up of multiple receivers that can extend wireless signals to more spaces.
Disconnect Idle Devices
Since your can’t see wireless signals with the naked eye, you can’t take a quick glance at your router to see how many devices are connected to it. But if you’re experiencing slow internet speeds, devices that you’re not using may unintentionally be draining bandwidth in the background as they automatically download software, content, and other updates while idle. Video game consoles, streaming devices, phones, tablets, and most any smart device in your home that uses your wireless network may be inadvertently using your internet connection during your work-from-home hours. Disconnect or turn off devices that are connected to your Wi-Fi but aren’t in use.
Check for Others Using Your Connection
If you’re using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, there’s a good chance one of your neighbors is connected to your Wi-Fi and using your bandwidth. They may be doing this intentionally or unintentionally, as many devices are set to automatically connect to any unsecured Wi-Fi connection available. For both bandwidth and security purposes, it’s important to lock down your internet connection immediately.
It may not seem like the most modern solution, but a wired connection to your router can provide the fastest internet speeds available to your home. A direct Ethernet connection eliminates common issues encountered over Wi-Fi, such as poor signal strength or low latency. If your computer isn’t equipped with an Ethernet port, you can easily pick up an external USB adapter for less than $20.