At Clark Computer Services, I’m proud that we give our residential, or Home IT clients, the same white-glove service that we provide to our Small Business clients. Overall, we have a loyal client base because we focus on making them happy and relieving their technical anxieties.
Typically, at this time of year, parents are excited to have their kids going back to school. I’m a parent myself and remember well the days of juggling work and kids over the summer break. For us here at CLARK, August marks an end to our slow period as families wind up their vacations and parents get back to business as usual, bringing in more work from our small business clients. It’s been part of our natural business cycle since I started CLARK, and I’ve learned to count on it.
This is not a typical year. Our natural business cycle is off because parents are more concerned with what the new school year will bring than work. And most of those that I talk to are dreading it! It wasn’t all that long ago that parents first had to learn to facilitate distance learning. And now, instead of getting a break with kids going back to school, they have even more to worry about.
Understanding the Problems
At CLARK, we can’t help with every issue while kids learn at home, but we can help with the technology. And that’s precisely what we’ve been doing. We have seen an increase in work, but not from our business clients as we have come to expect. It’s our residential clients who are growing anxious, wondering how to avoid the many technical issues that arise under this new paradigm of e-learning or distance learning.
Having learned a long time ago that helping clients with their technical issues means focusing on their problems and trying to understand how we can make those problems go away, we spend a lot of time in the office discussing it. This year, most of that time has been spent gaining an understanding of our Home IT client’s needs while they work and learn from home.
Stepping back and looking at our client’s needs allows us at CLARK to provide the right support and advice to our clients. We understand that there are challenges to remote learning, but as in small businesses, many of the technical challenges are due to slow computers and WiFi or a slow Internet connection.
Before COVID-19, most home networks were recreational and not used for business or a child’s education. WiFi or internet performance was really only for streaming TV and cruising through social media pages. Although speed and performance were important, they weren’t critical. Most people put up with minor issues, like sudden buffering when streaming Netflix, without much complaint.
Today, many students across the country will participate in some form of eLearning. Whether we agree with it or not, learning from home isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Instead of fighting against it, we need to ensure that our children can stay on task with their education. For that, we must have a stable connection to WiFi or the Internet.
Before worrying about anything else, the first step in getting ready for the school year is to identify your child’s learning space. Having a designated area for your child’s learning is essential for many reasons. From a technical perspective, identifying that area is crucial to ensuring that the network connection is working where it’s needed. Once the area is identified, take these three steps to test the WiFi in the area:
Step One. Run a speed test with the computer your child will use for learning. I like using Google’s speed test, it’s easy to get to by just googling on “google speed test.”
Step Two. Run additional speed tests throughout the day. I learned the hard way that many internet issues are intermittent. This is particularly true for home networks. Jot down the time you ran the test and the results for later comparison.
Step Three. Each time you run the speed test with your computer, run a second speed test on another device, like a phone or tablet. This will allow you to quickly determine if the problem is with the computer. For example, if I get a slow speed test from a computer, but my phone shows a faster speed, I can assume the issue is with the computer and not the network or my internet service provider.
Once the testing is done, it’s time to interpret the results.
The first benchmark we want to discuss is upload and download speeds. If either is below 10 Mbps, it’s unlikely that your child will be able to keep up with the instructors on video and will experience disconnects and buffering.
If the results are below 10 Mbps on the computer, but the phone is higher, that computer is going to need some maintenance or replacement. But, if both devices are under that 10 Mbps mark, there is likely a problem with the service. Most basic packages for internet access start at a higher speed, and you may not be getting the service you’re paying for!
When both devices show slow speeds, we need to determine the source of that problem. Is the trouble with the WiFi device, or is it with your internet service provider, like Verizon or Comcast? Many people don’t realize that there is a difference since very often the internet service provider also provides a WiFi device.
I know most of us dread it, but calling your internet service provider is the easiest way to determine if the WiFi device or the service is the problem. Whenever I’m diagnosing a slow internet problem and need to call their technical support, I’ll ask them to look at the connection history to see if there have been any issues, and ask them to test the modem. If they see a problem, request they send out a technician to fix it. In most cases, if the issue is with their equipment, your Internet service provider won’t charge you for fixing the problem.
On the other hand, if technical support doesn’t see any problems in the connection history, and their test comes back clean, you can hang up with them. The problem is in your computer or home network. This is when you call us. We can resolve most home network issues in less than an hour.
There are enough stresses with everything going on, your home network doesn’t need to be one of them. Get yourself ready. Test the areas your child will be learning, and if there’s a problem, follow the steps we’ve outlined. It will be a whole lot easier to keep them engaged if they are not dealing with slow connections, drops, and buffering.
I left big business to start Clark Computer Services in 2003; not because I had a grand vision, but because I had three young children who needed their Dad around. Knowing I had to replace my salary, I went door-to-door visiting small businesses to introduce myself and ask if they needed IT support. I heard story after story from business owners and office managers about IT companies not returning calls and emails, grumpy technicians showing up late or not at all, and systems being down for days, weeks, and in some cases…months. I realized quickly that there was a clear and pressing need for reliable, honest, and professional IT support completed pleasantly and on time.