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  • Writer's pictureMark Valdez

🤦🏻‍♂️ What I Learned This Week

We’ve been struggling for some time with WiFi and if you’ve ever had this issue, you know the headache this can cause. These days if you don’t have working internet you might as well not have electricity. Crappy WiFi will send frustrations through the roof. How can you actually get anything done if you can’t rely on this basic need? It’s not a luxury its a requirement!

From the very early days of working with the team at Stokes Counseling, WiFi was an issue and one we hoped to solve as an “easy win” for us to demonstrate to the team that we are here to help and hopefully make their jobs just a little bit easier.

So the first thing we did with help from our good friends at eero, was upgrade the routers to the latest mesh technology so that we could provide better coverage and more reliable connectivity across each of our locations. That certainly helped, but the performance really wasn’t where we expected it to be. We were still hearing of issues.

Upon a subsequent visit, we checked to make sure the eero routers were positioned in the best possible locations given the constraints of the office set up. The Stokes offices are these beautiful historical homes, which are really unique but don’t provide an open floor plan for optimal WiFi performance. We made sure the routers were not tucked behind monitors or under desks that would create interference and spaced to provide optimal coverage in the office. Helpful, but only on the margin.

A photo from the street of Stokes Counseling Services
Stokes Counseling in Naugatuck, CT

Finally a breakthrough! We think we discovered the root cause. The Comcast boxes were still broadcasting their own network effectively competing with the eero network and splitting the bandwith. Not only that, but employees would switch back and forth between both networks. While this required some cumbersome effort to hardwire into the Comcast boxes to put them into “bridge mode” (Comcast doesnt make this easy) and ensure all devices printers, VOIP phones, computers, etc. were on a single network, we thought we achieved nirvana.

Except we didn’t.

How can this be? We’ve done it all — checked the backhaul, upgraded the routers, improved router placement, consolidated the networks. Yet, employees were still having issues. One office in particular was most troublesome yet also had the fewest people. In theory, it should have the best performance of all. The team was not making up their issues. We’ve been on video calls with them while they were in the building and experienced the glitches. Was there concrete in the walls? Was there something we couldn’t see causing interference? It MUST be this old building.

We performed speed tests all over the building — the results were fantastic. I visited the office myself doing video calls and testing performance — it all worked great. There was only one thing left — the one thing we least expected it to be — the devices themselves 🤦🏻‍♂️. Upon inspection, everyone in that office has the same HP laptop. After further questioning, other devices work fine AND that laptop has issues outside the office. These were not old computers, but for some reason, the WiFi card in the device is crap (sorry HP). We couldn’t believe it. The problem was where we least expected it. Despite the headache for us and the Stokes team, this was a valuable practice in narrowing the scope of the potential issues to suss out the root cause and thankfully we found it.

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