Working Out of Your Home? Work Smart
According to Statistics Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of Canadians working from home – an increase from 4% in 2016 to 32% in early 2021. Once COVID restrictions are eliminated some people will return to their offices, others will continue to work from home, and others will work in the office some days and at home for others.
Many homes have products that can be controlled through a desktop or mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. These smart devices include door locks and viewers, security cameras, garage door openers, thermostats, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, air conditioners, speakers, televisions, lights, and even kitchen appliances. Each device has its own app that you use to control the device, though not all devices communicate with each other. To integrate all the smart devices in your home (and office) so they can be controlled by a single mobile app, you’ll need a smart hub such as Aeotec (formerly Samsung SmartThings Hub) or Wink Hub 2, or a smart speaker such as Amazon Echo or Google Nest. The advantage of a smart speaker is that you can control any devices connected to the speaker with your voice.
The benefit of using a smart speaker, like the Amazon Echo (above) or the Google Nest Wi-Fi (right), is that it can help the user control all the devices connected to the speaker with your voice. They also make mundane tasks like making a phone call simpler.
Aeotech Smart Hub
A smart hub, like this one from Aeotech, can help the user control all their smart devices in the home. There are many brands of smart hubs on the market. They can also ease network congestion by diverting traffic off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Although often overlooked, Ethernet cables can assist in giving the user a faster and more consistent internet connection.
Working out of your home puts a strain on your internet bandwidth (the volume of data sent and received over your internet connection) and it can cause your internet service to crawl to a snail’s pace, especially if other people in your home are using the internet at the same time. High-capacity activities (such as video streaming, video conferencing and virtual learning) demand a lot of bandwidth. For example, streaming 4K content requires at least 25 Mbps (megabits per second).
There are a few things you can do to increase bandwidth. Connect the computers and laptops in your home to your router with an Ethernet cable, rather than connecting them wirelessly.
A wired connection will give you better speed, shorter data transfer delays and better security. Use Category 7 or higher cables and keep them as short as possible.
If you’ll be uploading and downloading a lot of data to the cloud or frequently engaged in video conferencing, consider upgrading to a higher Mbps plan from your ISP (internet service provider). Get the highest speed you can afford – for around $100 per month you should be able to get download and upload speeds up to about 750 Mbps. ISPs offer both shared connections through the more common cable modem and the newer dedicated fibre optic connections. Generally speaking, a dedicated fibre connection delivers faster and more reliable internet service.
Routers – the non-woodworking ones
It’s good practice to set up your home office as close to your router as possible. If you need to boost internet coverage to other areas of your home, there are a couple of options to consider. The easiest and less costly is to install a Wi-Fi range extender (a.k.a. booster, repeater or amplifier). However, they do reduce Wi-Fi speed, which makes them more suitable for browsing the web and checking email, but less so for high-capacity activities.
Your router manages the movement of data between devices and between devices and the internet. Having an effective router running your network traffic is important to ensure you’re getting optimal network speed and security. If your router is more than a few years old it may only operate on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency, which is fine for low bandwidth activities like checking email and browsing the internet. Upgrade to a dual band router that supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz if you want to get the most from high-bandwidth devices.
For large homes with multiple computer users and a variety of smart devices, a mesh network might be more appropriate. These consist of a main router and one or more nodes (a.k.a. satellites) placed in different areas of your home. These deliver better signal strength and wider coverage. Popular mesh systems include Google Nest Wi-Fi, Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi and TP-Link Deco M9 Plus.