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Networking & Cables

5 Signs of a Crummy Network ... And How to Fix It

Buffering, bad video quality, unreliable connections, lousy roaming and dead zones are key signs of an awful home network. Solutions include to not rely on wireless, check LANs carefully, examine the ISP, and perform annual maintenance.

Solve these network problems and you'll win customers for life.

Michael Maniscalco · February 20, 2017

“Food, water, shelter, Wi-Fi. They’re basic human rights. When the Internet goes down, that’s when $%#@ gets dark.” 

That is a quote from a great commercial by Wi-Fi startup Luma. It stars the actor, Internet celebrity, and meme hero formerly known as the “Most Interesting Man in the World.” Take a minute and watch the commercial because it’s both entertaining and incredibly telling.

Today’s home network is:

  • The “Digital Foundation of the Home"
  • “More Important Than Water”
  • One of the “Most Important Utilities In The House.”

This is why smart technology professionals are taking network performance more seriously than ever before, and investing in training, tools and education to improve the level of service for their customers.

By the same token, technology professionals are busier than ever. So when a client complains about a minor network problem, it’s often easier to brush it off. The integrator might even say, “Everything is working,” (albeit at a snail’s pace) or, “It was online when I checked it.”

However, if you approach this problem as an opportunity instead of a waste of time, you have a great chance to show your customers the value you provide — and keep them from turning to your competition for the service they expect. Savvy integrators will parlay this into a managed service opportunity with a monthly subscription.

5 Signs of a Crummy Network

Here are five common scenarios many of your customers will experience due to poor network performance — and a few tips on how you can solve these problems and win those customers for life.

1. Buffering

It’s the all-too-familiar feeling of watching the game on Sunday afternoon, with 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter and your team down six and in the red zone. Your QB drops back, there’s a man open in the end zone, ball is up and… buffering... Expletives ensue.

You don’t like this. Well, guess what? Clients don’t either. It’s time to take network performance seriously.

2. Poor Video Quality

Put yourself in your client’s shoes, once again. Let’s say you just bought a 4K HDR TV and had it professionally installed. You’re streaming your favorite movie from Netflix.

What happens if your network performance can’t keep up with that 25Mbps streaming content? The quality goes down. Without a frame of reference you may think everything is working and this new TV is great.

The next night, you head to a friend’s house to watch a game, and their TV looks a lot better than yours did. Why is the quality so much better than it is on your brand-new screen?

When we invest in new technology, we expect it to work better than the product it replaced. But a poor Wi-Fi connection can easily diminish video quality and ruin the reputation of the company that specified or installed the new technology and/or the network.

3. Unreliable Connections

This one is simple: Some devices just don’t stay connected well or need stronger-than-usual signals to work reliably. If your client picks up the remote and tries to control the Roku only to get the message, “Cannot connect. Please try again,” that’s frustrating.

Today’s integrated systems require solid communication between devices and you, as the integrator, need to ensure the system has good end-to-end coverage.

4. Poor Roaming

Your client just found a great new recipe while watching the news in the living room. Getting excited, he heads into the kitchen, clicks for the ingredients... and the page fails to load. This is followed by that ever too familiar, “WTF!” He restarts his phone and the problem is solved. There’s the Web page.

This is a classic symptom of bad roaming. Eventually, your client hears about a new surround sound, whole house, Wi-Fi system at Costco “that just works.” Whether or not it really does remains to be seen, but it is true that some Wi-Fi systems are just better at roaming.

As the technology professional, it’s your job to find those systems and use them on every job.

5. Dead Zones

Here are some familiar scenarios: Skype on the back patio by the pool can’t connect; the new Ring doorbell at the front door drops offline and has horrible quality; the in-laws are in town and trying to work from home in the guest bedroom but, “The internet is always slow.”

All of these situations are extremely frustrating and show how important it is to design for good wireless coverage throughout the entire home.

5 Ways to Fix a Crummy Network

So what causes those problems and what can you do about it? A number of issues can cause these problems, so it’s important to investigate each of these factors to get to the root of the problem. 

1. Find out if the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is providing the speeds your customer needs.

Does the customer have the latest modem to take advantage of those speeds? And how are you monitoring the ISP performance and uptime to ensure your client gets the best experience from the network YOU installed? If you don’t have remote network monitoring to accurately measure network speeds, you’re doing your customers a disservice.

2. Take LAN performance seriously.

Pay attention to performance metrics like packet loss and latency. Utilize network troubleshooting and monitoring tools to test performance and alert your technicians when performance issues occur. You can be proactive and work to solve the problem, often before your customer realizes the network isn’t performing up to speed.

3. Mind your hardware.

Today’s network devices have an expected lifetime of only a few years. That router, switch and wireless equipment you sold the client four years ago may have been enterprise grade at the time, but processing limitations may prevent it from providing throughput to meet your client’s demands today.

For instance, when I replaced my older Cisco 800 series router, my speeds doubled from 25Mbps to 50Mbps instantly. The router was old and didn’t have a modern chipset to match the speeds my ISP was providing.

4. Perform annual check-ups on the network (and bill your clients for this time).

New technology, more devices, cord-cutting, firmware updates, security concerns, ISP updates and outside interference are all reasons why you should provide annual network assessments for your customers.

Best of all, it’s billable time — whether you sell a warranty, service contract or simply bill for the service at the time. Spend an hour updating firmware and check the performance of their network.

While you’re there, talk to your clients about their habits and educate them on the latest technology. Show the value of your service and find upgrade opportunities. Many of these checkups can be done remotely but you might also use this as an annual positive customer service on-site interaction, which, by the way, is all billable.

5. Don’t rely solely on wireless.

Solid wiring infrastructure is still key for meeting the ever-increasing performance demands families and businesses put on today’s networks. Ensure you have the proper wiring in place and are leveraging that infrastructure. Prepare for 10Gbps in the home on all of your new pre-wires and don’t forget conduit between main connection points.

Be a Network Hero... Keep Customers

By understanding the common problems that plague network users — and knowing the best ways to troubleshoot and solve these issues — you put your company in control of the “Digital Foundation of the Home” and one of the necessities of life.

More so now than at any time in history, home technology professionals have a crucial role in our customers’ work and play. Know how to leverage that role to build value and show customers that your company is just as indispensable as the network you control.



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  About the Author

A former integrator, Michael Maniscalco is co-founder and vice president of technical operations for ihiji. He served as one of the principal architects of invision, the company’s cloud-based, real-time remote systems monitoring and servicing solution. For more information contact info@ihiji.com or visit www.ihiji.com. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Michael at info@ihiji.com

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  Article Topics


Networking & Cables · Networking · Household Enhancements/Installation Accessories · News · Media · Videos · Ihiji · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by Adroit1 on March 4, 2017

One other simple piece of advice. Never sell a client any routers or switches that are not gigabit rated. At the rate WAN’s are being converted (extremely slowly) the odds of needing anything more than a gigabit is going to be extremely small, but less than that is asking for trouble in the near future. LAN speeds are even more important when communicating between devices in the home or office.

Posted by Adroit1 on March 4, 2017

One other simple piece of advice. Never sell a client any routers or switches that are not gigabit rated. At the rate WAN’s are being converted (extremely slowly) the odds of needing anything more than a gigabit is going to be extremely small, but less than that is asking for trouble in the near future. LAN speeds are even more important when communicating between devices in the home or office.