Amid claims that millions of people working from home will put unmanageable strain on broadband networks, here’s some tips to ensure you’re ready for whatever happens.
As the government steps up measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it seems increasingly likely that unprecedented numbers of people will be forced to work from home.
The prospect has prompted forecasts that the sheer weight of numbers using the internet from home could put unbearable strain on the UK’s home broadband network and cause speeds slow to a standstill.
Worse still, in some worst-case-scenario projections it’s claimed that the network could even go down completely in badly connected, rural areas.
With that in mind, here’s how to get ready for enforced home working and ensure your broadband is up to the task.
Test your download speed
Even if network-wide problems don’t occur, if your broadband is generally slow you’re not going to be able to get much work done.
The good news is that for emails, day to day online work tasks and downloading small documents or files, any sort of working broadband connection will be fine.
Although if you’re accessing big documents via the cloud, a faster connection will stave off a lot of frustration and waiting around.
If you need to make Skype calls to check into meetings remotely, you’ll need a minimum connection of about 1.5Mbps for crystal-clear images and audio. So once again, even the slowest packages will see you right.
However, if you’re going to be making large group video calls you’ll need an 8Mbps connection or above. And an upload speed of 1.5Mbps (more of which in a bit).
To test your connection speed, just input your postcode in our speed test below. And we’ll do the rest.
And test your upload speed too
Upload speeds determine how fast and efficiently you can add attachments to emails. And how easily you’ll be able to share documents in the cloud with your colleagues.
A decent upload speed could make the difference between getting that bid for new business in ahead of the looming deadline. Or losing out because a laggy connection meant your pitch fell at the final hurdle.
If you’re just uploading the odd Word or Excel file, anything above a 1Mbps upload speed will be fine. But if you’re working with business-critical larger files, you want an upload speed of 5Mbps or so.
As well as download speeds, you can see your upload speed by using our speed test above.
Switch or look at ways to speed up your connection
If you’ve got a standard ADSL broadband service and you’re worried it’ll hinder you working from home, you may want to upgrade to a faster fibre connection.
If you need a bit of help with changing provider, take a look at our guide. We’ll walk you through the switching process step by step.
We've picked out our selection of the standout fibre broadband deals in the table below:
*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time(8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.
Optimise and improve your existing broadband service
In the event that switching isn’t an option for you either on cost grounds or because you need to get faster broadband in a hurry, there are a number of ways to boost the speed of your existing service.
That could involve something as simple as rebooting your router or ensuring its firmware is up to date. Or investing in a better, faster router.
Once again if this isn’t your field of expertise and you need some pointers, take a look at our top tips for boosting your broadband speed.
Consider carefully which room will be your home office
The closer you are to your router, the better the signal will be.
So if the only room in the house that you can use an office is in a far flung corner of a large home, consider moving the router.
Have a back-up connection ready
Just in case your home broadband goes down completely or becomes so slow as to be unusable, it’s a good idea to have a substitute connection.
Especially because libraries and cafes and other locations with public WiFi are closing their doors in the face of the pandemic.
The good news is that for a decent price you can pick up a MiFi from most networks.
These use the same mobile internet technology as your smartphone, and allows you to share that connection with multiple devices throughout the home. So just like a regular home broadband router, then.
An alternative is to use what’s called ‘tethering’ on your phone.
Once you’ve activated this (you can switch it on in your smartphone’s settings), your phone turns into a wireless router and emits a mobile internet signal that’ll enable you get online on your laptop, desktop or any other internet-enabled gadget in your home.
Take a look at our pick of the standout MiFi deals on our comparison page.