Troubleshooting Home Wi-Fi for Remote Employees

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Troubleshooting Home Wi-Fi for Remote Employees

How network engineers can address common home Wi-Fi issues from a distance

We are in unprecedented times. Coronavirus is forcing businesses worldwide to change their operating model or close entirely for the foreseeable future. Companies that can are forced to be flexible to protect employees and customers. This means that millions of people who hadn’t before started working from home within the past month.

Unfortunately, employees can’t bring their enterprise-level setup home with them. Unless they are IT professionals, they’re usually working with standard home Wi-Fi networks and hardware. Trying to run some of the same applications on this framework can create a few challenges—but business is expected to carry on, nonetheless.

Previously, few network engineers addressed home Wi-Fi issues. It was up to the employee to ensure their home network was able to support what they needed to support. Given the current state of things, however, this is changing. As workers are transitioning critical business operations to home environments, engineers are being called on to optimize those environments and troubleshoot issues.

Without the usual onsite network visibility, this can be an extremely frustrating task for both the engineer and the employee. How do you solve a problem you can’t properly evaluate?

Let’s take a look at some common home Wi-Fi issues remote employees encounter and how tools like those offered by 7SIGNAL can transform the experience.

Common home Wi-Fi issues

Troubleshooting employees’ home internet problems is a lot like troubleshooting their issues at work, in some respects. Engineers will hear the same imprecise complaints like “my Wi-Fi is slow” or “I can’t connect” with the same desire for a quick and simple solution.

The real difference now lies in the fact that engineers have to do the same work with much less information. Some of the common issues faced at home include adjacent channel interference, coverage issues, and congestion. Unfortunately, when you’re flying blind, you have to bring it back to basics. This can be a painstaking process for both parties, but it’s necessary.

One of the biggest root causes of these problems is hardware. Most employees are working with consumer-grade Wi-Fi equipment that’s nothing near the enterprise-level devices they’re used to in the office. It’s lower cost, convenient, and it gets the job done for their usual streaming and surfing needs.

The equipment they have and how it’s impacting network performance aren’t major concerns for most end users. They often don’t understand issues like the fact that they’re sharing a spectrum, that their Access Point (AP) can change channels and cause brief silent periods, or that they can create and receive interference from those around them. When troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues, do your best to understand the hardware in play before going any further.

The same goes for the internet connection. The ISP isn’t guaranteeing the same level of performance as you’d see on a business-grade connection. Plus, there are no quality of service or bandwidth guarantees. Network design isn’t a consideration in the average household, either.

Troubleshooting these issues without any advanced insight into an employee’s network is difficult. But these are some of the most common tactics:

Router location

If the user is having trouble connecting, ask where the router is. Often, people place routers poorly, trying to hide them in a storage closet, a storage space under the TV, or in some random room in the corner of the house.

For an immediate solution, have them move the router closer to their work station. For the long term, however, have them place the router in a more optimized location that provides a strong signal.

Restarting equipment

It may be a cliché, but the phrase “unplug it and plug it back in” exists for a reason. Because it works … sometimes. This might be a frustrating suggestion and step for the end user, but it’s still part of the script you should run through without having more details.

Internet speed and devices

If employees can connect, but applications like Skype for Business are running very slowly, the problem may lie in the inherent speed of their internet connection. They simply might not be set up to support that type of traffic.

Also, be sure to ask about the other devices and activity on their network. If everyone is stuck at home, others in the household are likely using the network too. Someone may be working with their own enterprise applications, someone else may be streaming videos, and someone else may be downloading large files. To optimize performance for everyone, users may have to upgrade their internet or compromise on access.

If time and patience permit, you can talk to the user through pinging Google’s public DNS servers to verify their internet connectivity. This method can give the engineer good network data (or at least better than they had before), but it is a time-consuming process.

Change the game with 7SIGNAL

Many network engineers will wish for a lifeline in the coming weeks as they are asked more and more frequently to assist with home Wi-Fi issues. There is only so much that can be done remotely without proper visibility into network activity. But 7SIGNAL offers one of the only solutions to get this crucial information.

7SIGNAL’s Mobile Eye is an enterprise SaaS application installed on client devices that collects Wi-Fi data and compiles it into a dashboard for review. It is entirely AP- and device-agnostic, which is critical for workers using personal devices instead of corporate equipment.

Mobile Eye changes the approach to troubleshooting remote employees’ network issues by giving engineers infinitely more data to work with. You can see information on any network the devices have been connected to, as well as signal strength, data transmission rate, roaming history, channel connection, and more. You can also see data about the device itself, which helps address any potential causes related to hardware. Engineers can customize their view to see the information that’s relevant to their needs.

The application provides timestamped feedback on the most common issues, such as roaming, coverage, congestion, and interference. Mobile Eye allows you to capture historical data that would otherwise be lost. This makes all the difference because if the end user isn’t experiencing the issue at the same time you’re talking to them, it’s very difficult to diagnose the problem. 7SIGNAL’s proactive approach to troubleshooting Wi-Fi gives network engineers a bird’s-eye view of end-user activity.

Although coronavirus is suddenly causing people to work remotely at higher rates, the trend is only growing in popularity with each passing year. And it’s also likely that remote work will become the norm for far more companies as this pandemic exposes them to successful remote-work experiments, and social distancing remains in effect for some time.

Prepare your enterprise for what’s here and what’s to come with Mobile Eye—a dynamic and adaptive tool that enables offsite troubleshooting of any network.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.

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