Choosing the Right Broadband for Home Working
Guest blog by Mark Billen, Contributor at Broadband.co.uk
There are lots of options when it comes to the best broadband. Here we’ll explain some of the considerations when picking a domestic connection for professional usage.
Thanks to modern web connections, more and more of us have the ability to work from home. But when broadband isn’t purely for play, it’s vital to get it right.
In this instance, reliability is at least as important as super-fast speeds. Knowing your internet won’t drop unexpectedly before a crucial deadline counts for an awful lot.
This guide answers key questions around the best network setups for home workers.
What speed do I need?
Start by thinking about what the connection’s primary purpose will be.
Most home broadband networks are about meeting general usage demands. They can cope with work tasks with TV streaming or gaming alongside, usually catering for large online households.
How many people or devices will connect simultaneously and what kind of work tasks do you do? The more people you have online at once, the more speed you’ll need.
If you are a single professional living alone then demand could be more modest, though this does depend on what kind of work you’re doing. General web browsing and email might be less intense, but file transfers and video conferencing require bigger bandwidth.
In general, an entry-level fibre optic service with a speed of around 35Mb should be considered the minimum for any household. But if you are sharing the connection with others, or you have very demanding work tasks, then you’ll need to increase the speed accordingly. For big homes or activities involving very large file transfers, you may need to look for services with speeds in excess of 100Mb. It’s best to use a comparison service to compare the broadband deals available to your postcode.
How can I get a Wi-Fi signal to my office?
Current Wi-Fi routers generally have indoor signal spans of 46 metres or 150 feet.
To maximise reach, most will be positioned centrally within the home to serve most rooms. However, the signal strength and speed will inevitably dip at distance.
If your office is the primary place of use then preferably the router should be situated inside or close enough to be inadequate range.
When this isn’t possible or signal issues persist, try the following:
- Resist obstructions. Place router away from walls or sources of interference.
- Upgrade equipment. Switch to a newer router that supports better distance.
- Extend signals. Add booster units or powerline network adapters to extend the network. Mesh kits are the most expensive but offer the best performance.
Do I need anti-virus software?
Anti-virus is important, especially when protecting professional data online.
It tends to apply more to Windows users, but all computers benefit from adequate network security.
This doesn’t always need to come at a cost. Windows has fairly sufficient anti-virus features built-in, and other free software solutions are available.
You might also consider a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to anonymise web activity and add an extra shield beyond just a firewall.
What if I live in an area with no fibre broadband?
If fibre optic isn’t an option, it is almost certain you will still be able to get fixed-line ADSL broadband, which has an average speed of around 10Mb. That is slow by modern standards, but may be sufficient for an individual. However, shared homes are likely to find this very restrictive, and big downloads or uploads will take a long time.
Mobile broadband is a better alternative to fibre. Speeds can be much better than ADSL (and even some fibre services) as long as good 4G or 5G signal is achievable. However, an unlimited data plan is vital to avoid excessive running costs.
Satellite broadband is a last resort option for the remotest locations, but providers are scarce and packages are limited and expensive. You should also be aware that most satellite broadband suffers from very high latency, which could impact performance for activities such as video conferencing.
Should I have a backup option for working at home?
If your work relies on internet access then having an emergency backup is recommended, and there are a few “backup” connection options for home workers:
- Smartphone hotspot. Tethering to a cellphone is useful in an emergency, but phones are not designed to work as routers and you may have data limits.
- Hybrid broadband. Providers like BT and EE offer landline fibre broadband backed by a mobile connection.
- Public places. At a push, local coffee shops, pubs and libraries often have Wi-Fi access.
To conclude, most home workers will do fine with standard home broadband.
Entry-level fibre deals are more than capable, especially when even ADSL can cope with lightweight tasks. Think honestly about what you need in reality and buy accordingly.
Final points to consider for home broadband workers:
- Costly specialist business broadband packages are unnecessary.
- Wi-Fi extenders, Ethernet cabling or even a 2nd telephone line might be useful to improve network access.
- Backup “plan B” options are useful if a primary connection fails.