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Working from home: Top tips from Genmar IT boss Garry Moore to improve your broadband speed

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Garry Moore, managing director of Bishop's Stortford business Genmar IT, on ways to improve your broadband speed for working from home...

Genmar will next year celebrate 25 years of offering IT services. This represents a good slice of the modern era of computing.

Larger corporates tend to realise the potential benefits and are prepared to bear the costs. Very quickly the costs and ease of use are honed, and affordable and reliable technology becomes available to the majority. The rate of advancement seems exponential, especially over the last few years.

One recurrent issue for people when it comes to working from home is poor broadband
One recurrent issue for people when it comes to working from home is poor broadband

Being primarily service based, we see that while technology is now a necessity, it is often seen as a necessary evil and, probably due to this, new technology is slow to be taken up by the majority.

This year has forced us into adopting new technology both at work and at home.

In March, our business customers found themselves in lockdown virtually overnight. The demand for remote access to their office systems and data skyrocketed, with our support desk taking more calls a day through March and April than in any other period in our history.

Genmar's support desk took more calls a day through March and April than in any other period in its history
Genmar's support desk took more calls a day through March and April than in any other period in its history

Initially, much of the support consisted of temporary measures to enable basic access, quickly followed by more permanent solutions, with some being more painful to set up than others depending on their requirements and the existing state of their IT.

During summer, demand slowed and it seemed to some that things were "getting back to normal". Now, as winter returns, the dreaded bug is back with a vengeance and once again we are faced with various and ever-increasing restrictions. So, again, we will need to fall back on technology – and possibly for some time to come.

Depending on your requirements, working outside the office relies on the ability to access the various systems and data you use.

Not long ago, your music collection resided on physical disks of one sort or another physically located at your house, making it difficult to listen to your favourite album in another room let alone while on a beach in Crete. Thanks to the cloud, we can take advantage of services like Spotify or Deezer and help ourselves to pretty much any track ever made from anywhere.

Even with adequate broadband, many rely on Wi-Fi at home
Even with adequate broadband, many rely on Wi-Fi at home

Similarly, if you use an older version of Sage, installed locally on a single work PC, gaining access remotely can be difficult. Upgrading to an online cloud version will enable access from anywhere. The same is so for email, company folders and even telephone systems.

One recurrent issue is poor home broadband

Take one of our larger customers, based in Bishop's Stortford. Forty staff work in an office with a business-class, leased-line internet connection.

Early April and all staff are sent home. We need to set up 40 people in 40 different locations with 40 different broadbands. Some living on their own with a nice superfast connection, others out in the sticks with their kids home schooling and broadband barely capable of streaming EastEnders.

Even with adequate broadband, many rely on Wi-Fi at home. Having installed it yourself in the loft to get away from the kids and to ensure a half-decent mobile signal, borrowing the ironing board as a desk, you find the Wi-Fi signal will not reach.

If you have broadband you will have a router. Normally this is a cheap thing supplied by your broadband provider and may also issue Wi-Fi. Connecting your computer directly into this with a cable will see a more reliable connection than Wi-Fi.

If you have more than one telephone point in the house, the router should be connected to the master socket. This is the one connected to the BT cable entering the building. Extensions tend to offer a degraded signal.

You may have wondered what the little white boxes connected between the phone sockets and the router/phones are. These are microfilters. Their function is to split the signal for either voice (phone) or data (computer). Every phone socket should have one. If not, they can slow or stop the signal.

Routers supplied by the big ISPs (internet service providers) are normally low-quality. Upgrading your router could help with improving the signal.

Ensuring the Wi-Fi signal is good throughout the home is a common problem. Replacing the router for one with better Wi-Fi can help, especially in small homes.

A better option is something called powerline. This technology uses a couple of gizmos the size of a night light. One plugs into a power socket close to the router and connects to it with a cable. The other you plug into another power socket anywhere in the home. This has another socket you can connect to your computer. It cleverly uses your household electrical circuit to connect to the router. Additional gizmos can be bought and placed around the home. There are even Wi-Fi versions that allow you to create another Wi-Fi zone from any device.

A bit techier, but it is possible to improve most home browsing speeds by changing your DNS (domain name server). This is a service that handles the finding of websites for you and by default is set to your ISP's servers. Changing this to a specialist provider like Cloudfare or Google can speed up browsing.

For some, even slow broadband is an unreachable nirvana. Many outlying villages still have no access to superfast (FTTC/FTTP) broadband after years of empty promises by Governments. Apart from moving house, there are a couple of options.

If you have a decent 4G signal on your mobile at home, it is quite easy to set up your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Obviously, this will use your data and you should check your contract as you may incur huge bills.

There are routers that will accept a SIM, allowing you to use 4G (or 5G if it ever comes) as a permanent connection and cabled connections from a PC. With some providers offering unlimited data packages on SIM-only deals, the costs are not so different from home broadband.

Unless you have the option of Virgin cable, whatever ISP you choose they all rely on BT phone cabling to your home. If they have upgraded the local exchange and then rolled out fibre to the green boxes on the roadside, you will have access to superfast broadband (speed depending on the distance between you and the green box).

Due to the ridiculously slow roll-out of fast broadband locally, companies have taken the gamble of setting up private fibre networks. Prices are comparable with BT-based ISPs, but speeds and reliability are higher as they use fibre cable directly to your premises.

* If you know of any businesses which might benefit from our services, we are offering our support services FREE for one month and a small gift to the referrer as an incentive. Call us on 0330 445 1234, email us at email@genmar.co.uk or visit genmar.co.uk. Our offices and PC workshop are at Unit 12, The Links Business Centre, Raynham Road Industrial Estate, Bishop's Stortford CM23 5NZ.

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