You were at your job. Everything was fine. Your underground internet wiring is cut by a landscaper’s shovel, or a tree falls and destroys a neighborhood’s internet. Or the bizarre occurs and the cable modem’s tiny green LED turns red. When a ship’s engine shuts off, you are, as the sailors say, “dead in the water.” Now what?
The majority of remote work requires access to a stable internet connection, and for many people, particularly hourly or clocked employees, having no internet means having no money. Finding a quick technique to reconnect to the internet at home or anywhere else is required. Given the disruption, the objective is to continue operating a firm, maintain employment, and have a solid backup plan in place in case the internet goes down. This is why having a bug-out pack with all the necessary cables, equipment, and even a sweater (for uncontrolled air conditioning) can swiftly get you back to work.
KEEPING IN TOUCH AT HOME
Tethering from your smartphone is the most straightforward technique to get over a brief outage. All current smartphones come with a Wi-Fi hotspot feature that allows you to share your data connection with other devices, albeit the functionality is often constrained by phone plans.
In the Settings section of your phone, you can enable your hotspot. On an iPhone, check the main Settings menu for Personal Hotspot. Go to Settings > Connections > Mobile Hotspot and Tethering on a Samsung phone, and Settings > Network & internet > Hotspot & Tethering on other Android phones, respectively. You should be good to go after changing or copying the password and connecting your laptop to the phone’s Wi-Fi SSID.
Even “unlimited” phone plans will eventually reduce your hotspot speed. That amount, which can be anything between 5GB and 40GB per month, is typically separate from your overall high-speed data allocation. You can only access speeds up to 3G after that. Large file transfers can quickly exhaust your hotspot allotment, but video calls are the real killer: a one-hour Zoom meeting can consume over a gigabyte of data. Plan to dial in via a phone until your internet is restored if you receive a lot of calls. Dial-in numbers are supported by all popular video calling platforms, but you may need to contact the meeting host or your company’s IT department to activate them.
Additionally, even though you could typically have a lightning-fast 5G connection, both 5G and 4G / LTE connections might significantly slow down depending on how many users are utilizing the same tower and infrastructure. While a result, if the outage is widespread, you should expect your phone’s data connection to slow down as everyone tries to use their phones. You’ll need a way to recharge your phone and laptop if the power goes out because tethering consumes battery power quickly.
CONNECTIONS FOR BACKUP
If outages are infrequent, tethering from your phone is a fantastic choice. However, whether a separate backup is portable or not, it’s worth thinking about if your main connection to the internet is inconsistent and you depend on it for business. If you frequently tether to avoid being at the whim of other people’s Wi-Fi or to weather frequent house outages, you might want to investigate a portable hotspot device, which can preserve both your phone’s battery and data allowance. The most economical solution is to upgrade your current plan to include a hotspot line. Customers of Verizon, for instance, can add a 15GB hotspot line to an existing account for $20 per month; the company’s most affordable standalone plan is $60 per month. That’s fantastic for the people using the café, but if your hotspot is connected to the same network as your primary phone, it will experience the same network congestion issues when there is a local outage.
Hotspots are a good primary option in some locations. Dedicated hotspots might replace DSL, cable, and even overloaded fiber-optic connections as phone companies gradually roll out their 5G networks. 5G speeds can compete with many household and apartment broadband connections where it is available and functional. If DSL is your only other option in rural locations without cable or fiber, 4G or 5G fixed internet might even be your best choice. Fixed wireless internet services and Wi-Fi routers with built-in 4G or 5G radios are both available from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. You might be able to switch to wireless if you live in a remote region and haven’t looked at your alternatives in a while (and keep your DSL for backup, if you really want).
Satellite is your only option if you live outside of the reach of cable, fiber, and reliable wireless internet. Traditional satellite internet is expensive and slow, but it can be a vital backup for remote employees in rural areas who have no other choice but slow, unstable DSL. Though coverage isn’t yet universal, more recent satellite options like Starlink are still pricey but speedier.
KEEPING IN TOUCH WHEN AWAY FROM HOME
There may be other reasons to leave the house besides a home outage. If you can find a place with a reliable internet connection and a setting that is conducive to working, any of these things are good reasons to move out, including construction noise, visitors, a neighbor who brought a full drum set over for a jam session at the apartment next door, plumbing problems, or a desperate need to escape distractions.
Doing a “trial outage” to discover a nice location before you need one is an excellent idea. Check out the local possibilities after packing a “bug-out” bag with cables, batteries, chargers, and a sweater (for overzealous AC). However, not all of them will be suitable locations for you to work for a few hours or be willing to accommodate you. Libraries, coffee shops, and restaurants are all candidates. It’s generally a good idea to go to a Starbucks if one is close by. Fast-guaranteed Wi-Fi was one of Starbucks’ undeniable early advantages in the digital age. Even today, it’s uncommon to find a Starbucks without at least a few patrons using it as a makeshift workspace, with laptops open and coffee in hand.
You might or might not be welcome to set up camp at any specific coffee shop, board game café, or even bakery. Or, they might welcome your patronage, especially at off-peak times. It’s possible that the popular Thai restaurant doesn’t have many customers until the late afternoon and doesn’t mind if a few frequent remote employees use the Wi-Fi and purchase a steady supply of iced coffee there. It’s preferable to inquire. Even if they’re friendly, they might not have Wi-Fi that’s accessible to the public or that’s fast enough, and you might face fierce competition for bandwidth as other users come and go while you’re trying to work. If they do have Wi-Fi, it can be metered or it might be blocked from accessing services and websites that are necessary for work. See more below on that.
In your temporary workspace, make sure you can manage the background noise and any potential distractions. To avoid being disturbed by boisterous kids or the sounds of the street, you might need to pack noise-cancelling headphones or simply earplugs. Additionally, it is courteous to refrain from making too much noise. It can be impolite to take calls, especially video calls, in a public setting, both to the people on the call and to those nearby. (As long as you’re wearing headphones, listening in when your mic is muted usually isn’t a problem.)
Co-working spaces provide short-term desk space, meeting rooms, and even private offices for varying fees based on your needs if you require a more regulated atmosphere, for example if you are on calls all day or simply don’t want to deal with coffee shop Wi-Fi. Your best chance is to search for “co-working space” plus your locality. Although there are co-working space directories, many of them are incomplete or outdated. Additionally, because the epidemic has freed up a lot of retail office space, there may be possibilities that weren’t previously available.
Consider using the public library if you only require a few hours of peace and good unrestricted Wi-Fi and a cafe is too noisy or pricey. The majority of libraries charge a (free) library card fee to link the public to high-speed internet. Just be mindful of your fellow visitors, abide by the library’s rules, and pay attention to their schedules since there might be after-school programs or other events that could provide distractions. In some libraries, it may also be simpler to maintain a social distance than it would be in a café or restaurant, and masks are more likely to stay on.
VERIFY THE WI-FI PRIOR TO NEEDING IT
Captive portals are used by almost all companies that provide free or guest Wi-Fi to protect, measure, and/or monetize internet access. A captive portal is any Wi-Fi connection where you were required to enter your room number, email address, or even just agree to the acceptable usage policy in order to access the rest of the internet. The captive portal isolates visitor devices from the company’s internal networks and, typically, from other network users. Access to peer-to-peer services, VPNs, streaming media, social media, particular websites or types of content, or any combination of the above is usually also blocked. Network administrators (or, theoretically, snoops) may still know which websites you visit, if not what you’re doing on them, even if the majority of internet traffic is now encrypted by default. Your traffic on public Wi-Fi can be kept secret by using a VPN, and many businesses demand one in order to access email or any other company network resources.
Check to see if the VPN your company requires is compatible with the Wi-Fi you’re utilizing. If so, ask IT for assistance in locating a different connection method. Even if a VPN isn’t necessary, using a paid one to increase your privacy if you’re using someone else’s Wi-Fi is a good idea. Use what your employer offers or mandates on a device for work. Use a reliable paid VPN on a personal device. If you currently pay for cloud storage, the paid tiers of iCloud and Google One’s 2TB and higher tiers provide simple VPNs that will do for now. You might configure a VPN back to your home depending on your router and the PCs you have there.
Of course, tethering completely gets around the Wi-Fi problem as long as you have a strong mobile connection, whether it’s via your phone or a special hotspot. Test repeatedly whatever your outage plan is. When the internet is down, there are numerous ways to re-connect, whether at home or elsewhere. Make sure it functions before you need it to, whether the solution is a hotspot or tether or a visit to the neighborhood library. Take a snack and possibly some analgesics with you if you’re leaving the house. Additionally, earplugs can be your friend in some places.