The Business Owner’s Guide – How To Fix Your Internet Issues
Posted by Timothy Platt on Feb 26, 2017
In this article, we’ll discuss the options for making your Internet and network technology more reliable. We’re not going to deep dive into a lot of tech jargon – we’re going to provide a business-friendly overview of the steps you can take. Lastly, we’ll make some assumptions about the type of network gear we most often see for small to medium sized businesses here in Central Florida. With that out of the way, this advice probably applies to any area of the country.
Business Owner’s Guide – How To Fix Your Internet Issues
For this example, let’s assume your business has a cable Internet connection. Known as “coaxial cable” or “coax”, it’s the same technology that you use to get cable TV at home. As such, just like at home, you’ve got a cable modem which is used to shuttle information back and forth between your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and your home network. Secondly, you probably have a Wi-Fi router, that also provides some hard-wired Ethernet connections as well. Your Wi-Fi router and cable modem may be one and the same device, or they may be separate. This cable modem service is popular because it’s affordable, offers good performance, and is available in nearly any location you might need it.
What is Reliability?
First off, let’s define reliability. Nothing complicated here, something is reliable if it’s available when you need it and it performs adequately – no errors, no slowness, or other problems. It allows you to get done what you need to get done, in the time frame you need it done. So, if on occasion the network is too slow to be usable, or outright unavailable, it certainly can’t be deemed reliable. These are common complaints we hear from business owners, let’s see how we can address these. We’ll start with simple and cheap solutions and proceed from there. We always recommend the simple and inexpensive troubleshooting steps before spending serious money.
What’s the scope of the impact?
Firstly, what’s the scope of the issue? Is the Internet down or slow for all your devices or only one? If it’s down for only one device, that specific device probably needs to be fixed, rather than the network itself. For the remainder of the steps, we’ll assume everything is slow or not able to connect to Internet. It’s also good to check what’s slow – is it Wi-Fi only, or both Wi-Fi and wired devices?
We recommend – don’t skip this important step – check another computer, laptop, or tablet as necessary. It’s an important part of the troubleshooting process.
Is the modem on?
The cable modem should have multiple status lights. Some may be blinking some may be solidly illuminated. If there are no lights, there’s likely a power issue. Double check power connection and make sure any power strip in use is working. Sounds silly, but you must start somewhere!
Have you rebooted? (Yes, seriously)
The next step when troubleshooting cable modems is always a reboot. Why is this? Because the cable modem is a computer and therefore contains and executes computer code. This code can have bugs and failures, just like any computer. Your modem can have the equivalent of a “Blue Screen of Death” where it’s completely hung up, or it could have a “memory leak” where performance is awful. Rebooting the device will fix either issue. Simply disconnect the power cord for 10 seconds, and re-attach. It usually takes about 2 minutes for a cable modem to reboot fully and provide a signal.
Check all physical cable connections – starting with the incoming coaxial cable connection to the modem. This is normally a threaded connector, so it’s unusual for them to come loose, but not unheard of. Secondly, check all Ethernet cable connections to and from the modem and router. While we’re on the topic of cables – it’s not impossible for a cable to go bad, the tiny copper wires inside can be broken due to physical damage, or if a cable has been flexed too much. Coaxial cable is sufficiently heavy duty that physical damage is rare, but it’s also possible the connection has been damaged before it even enters the building (the classic example is any sort of trenching work around the building severing the cable, or damaging it enough to where the signal is too degraded to perform well.) If you suspect physical damage, replace Ethernet cables as needed, after re-seating the connector. If you suspect the coaxial is damaged, it’s best to call the service provider.
So now we’ve determined the physical status of the device and rebooted it. Still problems? This is where you probably want to contact your ISP. Most of the local providers have excellent phone support available 24×7, especially for business accounts. They can establish if there is a area outage that may be affecting your business. They can also perform several troubleshooting steps remotely that may help find the root of the problem, so you’ll be in good hands. But before you quit with the remainder of this article, check out a few more tips. We’re going to touch on some topics they won’t.
We mentioned earlier that the cable modem and router are computer devices, running computer code. They have bugs just like any program, and these bugs can be fixed with firmware upgrades. It’s a good idea to ask your provider (any time you have them on the phone) to confirm that you have the latest model of modem, and a known good version of the firmware. Does this seem like a little bit too techie of a detail for you to worry about? We agree, but we mention it here because this is one of the major sources of issues with the local providers. If in doubt, ask. There is a certain model of modem in use that routinely requires a reboot like clockwork. Ask for the new model, and the problem goes away.
Run a speed test
If performance is bad run a speed test. How will you know it’s good? You should normally be able to get most, if not all, the speed rating of your service using https://www.speedtest.net, with two caveats. Do not attempt to run a speed test on a Wi-Fi connected device. The results are going to be dismal – there is simply too much variability in the “over the air” signal of Wi-Fi networking to get a useful result. Only run speed test from a device connected via Ethernet cable. Does the speed achieved reach the amount of bandwidth you pay for? If not, here are some possibilities: How many computers are actively using the network? If ten people are streaming YouTube video, that’s going to have a measurable impact on your speed test. We recommend testing when you are certain there isn’t a lot of network usage. It’s also worth mentioning that may be your issue … read on to find out why…
Out of capacity
Cable service is normally “asymmetric” – you get a different download speed then upload speed. For example, a typical package might be 60 Mbps of download bandwidth, but only 5 Mbps of upload bandwidth. ISPs sell plans this way because “average” usage (for a home user – remember your business is on the same basic technology as home cable TV) is that you will download more than you upload. But what happens if you upload or download more than your allotted amount? Performance gets bad, information gets dropped, phone calls have poor quality, etc. Considering the asymmetric nature of these connections – you might run out of UPLOAD bandwidth long before you run out of download. Especially as a business – outgoing phone calls, video conferences, and the proliferation of cloud services now available means that your outgoing bandwidth is going to get used up quickly. Businesses simply have much more outbound and upload need than a home user. So, make sure your upload bandwidth is achieving the speed advertised during periods of low usage. Or ask your provider to assess. It’ll be important to check during the busy times of the day. Running out of bandwidth is going to be an intermittent issue, it’s not going to occur around the clock. Lastly, it’s also certainly possible you are running out of download speed, but we see that less frequently as an issue.
We spoke briefly about Wi-Fi being unreliable in the previous paragraph. What did we mean by that? Wi-Fi is simply radio waves transmitted by the router. They are prone to radio interference, crowding, and signal weakening due to distance or obstacles (or both). A wired Ethernet connection will always give performance that is more stable and predictable than a Wi-Fi connection. So, if your issue is Wi-Fi performance consider these factors – How far are you from the router? Is it better when closer? How many walls or other physical obstacles are in the way? How many neighboring businesses have Wi-Fi? If this is your issue, we have a whole article that elaborates on the challenges with Wi-Fi, you should check it out. Lastly, if your Wi-Fi router is separate from the cable modem, all the previous advice applies – reboot, check connections, etc.
How about the rest of your LAN?
It’s also possible your problems exist within your Local Area Network (LAN). Perhaps you have a bad switch or a firewall, or other equipment in addition to that provided by the cable company. In this case, we recommend you consider engaging a network expert. There’s far too much to that topic for us to address in a short article.
Maybe it’s time to upgrade to Fiber…
Assuming your equipment is up to date, working properly, and no area outages exist, it’s possible you simply need a better class of equipment and service. Beyond a certain size and reliance on the Internet a company can simply out-grow cable modem service. What you need is a new technology, offering a level of reliability and performance that coax can’t touch. That technology is fiber optic connected Internet. Fiber connected Internet access has a lot of benefits: it’s more reliable (by a long shot), performance is symmetric (meaning you can have much more outbound/upload speed), and it suffers from less variance in performance, etc. Fiber can also offer more upload and download bandwidth, often significantly more. We’ve seen customers who have “maxed” out the upload speed of cable, and moving to multiple modems isn’t necessarily desirable (two cable modems = twice the headache). The downsides of fiber – limited availability, long order lead time, and it’s comparatively expensive. That doesn’t mean it’s not the right choice for your business, it simply means you’ve got to do some homework before you make that decision. Having an office full of 20+ people unable to work gets expensive quickly. Fiber is more than worth the cost in those situations. We’ll discuss the advantages of a fiber connection in a future article.
Get Help From The Network Experts
As you can see, that’s a lot to consider. Need help? That’s what we are here for. We have extensive experience troubleshooting, resolving, and improving networks and Internet performance. Give us a call at (407) 268-6626 today.
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