It’s September 2020 and we’re sure all aware of the many ways COVID-19 has required us to take on new ways of working. For those of us who’ve been working from home for months on end, we may be considering equipment and service upgrades or changes to make our casual home office function more like the company office, at home.
Some work from the bed and others take the bed with them to their “office.”
What kind of home office setup do you have?
Upgrades for working at home fall into two basic categories: one is about computers and related equipment that take up space in your home, and the other is internet services and support that get you connected the way you need to be, so you can get your work done. If you’re a company employee, you’ve probably been sent home with a company computer.
What we’ve seen most commonly is employers providing their employees with a company laptop or desktop system, which can access only certain sites and must be connected to the company servers or cloud connections. This protects the company and the employee legally.
If you’re self-employed, you’re using your own equipment and may be thinking about upgrading that, or figuring out better ways to be connected, to get data faster, or to make the whole thing work more simply.
Did your company send you home with a desktop, or a laptop setup?
What kind of computing power do you need?
If you brought home a company desktop system, you may have had to set it up in less than optimal conditions. Maybe you had to find a place in your home that can accommodate setting up a desktop. You might have cables going in places that aren’t optimal.
Or maybe you discovered your home setup is better than what you had at the office. If you left a cubicle and now have the spare room, mazel tov!
If you were using a robust desktop system at work, but now you only have a laptop, it might be pretty bare bones compared to what you’re used to working on. But you probably figured out some work-arounds by now.
The advantages to a laptop, in the shelter in place scenario, is you can move to a part of the house where nobody is. Where you can think. Where it’s quiet. Or you can mask up, with laptop and hand sanitizer in tow, and sit at a nearby internet cafe, safely distanced and using their wifi!
This is especially helpful if you’re sharing your home space with a spouse, partner or roommate, and even more so if you’ve got young kids or school aged kids trying to do schoolwork while you’re trying to work! (which may make it impossible to escape to a cafe!)
Image source: News18
However, if you do take your laptop to the cafe, there are other things you must do to be safe such as make sure the laptop is equipped with the right antivirus protection and use only certain settings for specific networks.
So, question #1 is, what’s the right system for you? Do you have any flexibility? Can you get a better system to perform better from home? What would you need to perform optimally?
Now it’s time to consider the internet support and security you have at home.
You can have the best desktop or laptop setup in the world, but if your internet service is spotty, it can wreck your productivity.
3 ways to check for an optimal “Internet Set-up”
How good is your wifi? Does it support everyone in your home?
If you are on Zoom calls like many of us are these days, you’re going to need significant internet power. It used to be more important to have great download speeds, to allow for receiving of data. But for video calls like Zoom and other platforms, you need great upload speeds as well to support your video. “You’ll need a minimum of 600 Kbps (a mere 0.6 Mbps) download speeds to make one-on-one video calls on Zoom. The company’s website recommends a minimum 1 Mbps download speed for group calls. Doing group video calls in 1080p resolution requires at least 2.5 Mbps upload and download speeds.”
- How much wifi do you need?
Not only must it support you, but if you have others using wifi in your household, you need sufficient wifi bandwidth to provide that upload and download speed for each user. For this reason, some folks now arrange for several networks into their homes. This is especially an issue if two parents are working online, but also have children doing their schooling over Zoom at the same time.
The other massively important factor is that you have wifi or internet signal everywhere you need it in your home office. What if your kids like to play in your office, but it’s the only place in your home with wifi access? You then need to make sure that the signal reaches different parts of your home.
But what if you have good internet service, but your calls drop?
This may be a hardware problem. Your internet router may be the culprit.
- Router Isn’t Working
If you’ve got the upload and download speed handled, but still aren’t getting the bandwidth, the problem may be your router.
Here are the basic steps to tell if the problem is your router:
- Start by checking the obvious things. Is the router still plugged into the power outlet and is the outlet supplying power?
- If the outlet is wired to a light switch, power strip or surge protector, is the light switch in the ‘on’ position?
- Also, check your breaker panel and verify that the breaker for that outlet hasn’t tripped.
- Are the indicator lights on the router acting normal? Most routers’ lights will flash to indicate activity on the network – are they flashing?
- Are the status lights for the ethernet ports on your router lit up? You should see a ‘link’ light when a device such as a laptop or printer is plugged in to a specific port only. You shouldn’t, however, see port ‘link’ lights on ports that are not plugged in. Seeing a ‘link’ light on all ports, regardless of whether or not they are plugged in, is a classic sign that the router is having issues.
- Is the router generating the normal amount of heat? Is it making noise? Generally, consumer routers don’t make any noticeable noise. More details.
These are basic ways to tell if it’s your router. Beyond this, give us a call!
If your router isn’t the problem, but you’ve still got a weak and spotty internet connection, what do you do?
- Spotty Internet
There are several more factors involved in whether you can operate well with the internet service you have.
Is your internet service spotty because you live in the mountains?
Some places simply can’t get the signal that’s needed because of the natural setting you live in. If that’s the case, you can try getting a booster. Sometimes getting a booster can make enough of a difference to support getting the access you need.
3 Security Options for your “Home Office”
Here are some ways to add security to your home office:
- Virtual Private Network
VPN or Virtual Private Network is one of the ways companies make their data safely accessible to their remote staff. It’s cumbersome to have to log in to a VPN, but it allows the company to protect their data no matter what internet system it’s running on. If your company has invested in on site servers storing their proprietary data, this is probably how you’re accessing it.
- Cloud-based Services
Another way companies make their data safely available to their remote workers is through cloud-based services such as LogMeIn, which is secure remote desktop software for cloud-based remote connectivity services for collaboration. Companies who have moved their system to be cloud-based benefit from the ease of safe accessibility through the cloud.
You can also add a personal firewall to your home setup, for situations where this is warranted, providing the same level to your home that the business has. How to tell if you need it:
Again, the strength of your internet connection is going to make all the difference with how well you can use these services and access the data you need.
In summary, here’s a checklist for evaluating your home setup and how well it performs as “The Office” at home:
- How well does your internet perform for video calls?
- How secure is your system against hacker attacks and malware?
- How safe is your home wiring?
- How secure is your environment for protecting your company’s data?
- How compatible and up to date is your hardware at home?
Last, but not least, we would suggest to set-up several network connections to further protect your company’s data and your own.
Some people create a dedicated wifi for their guests. This is a protection for yourself and for company data as well. Malware can spread over your network. So if you have a guest who has malware on their computer, that can be a significant security risk.
Not only that, but Moms and Dads with kids can find that their kids compromise or overload the system using ipads.
One More Thing … How About A Security Camera?
Beyond the most important basics of your computer system and your internet service, there’s one more thing you can do to protect your home as well as your place of work may be protected, and that’s to add security cameras. Now you can have home security cameras that include real guards that intervene in real time. Add this to the mix and you’ve got a pretty sophisticated setup overall, don’t you think?
We hope this has given you some new ideas for how to make your home office work as well or better than the office you’re used to working in.
This is worth thinking about, as the work-from-home situation is gaining traction for many. There appears to be little to no loss in productivity. Companies can reallocate the cost of physical space for offices across other parts of their business. In other words, this may be the way of the future. If so, why not optimize your setup?
We hope this blog post has been useful for you. If you’ve got questions or comments, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. We’re interested in your thoughts!