The Constant Plague of “Unstable Internet”

2023-09-12

Why do I get these”your network is unstable” warnings using Zoom or Microsoft Teams?

The short answer is that your video or voice provider is unhappy with your internet connection. Most people believe they need more bandwidth; however, speed isn’t usually the culprit. Let’s dig into it, shall we? As a hybrid and remote worker for over a decade, I’ve become well-acquainted with and helped businesses implement the modern tools of our trade: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and the like. But if there’s one notification I’ve come to dread more than any other, it’s that little message declaring: “Your internet is unstable.”Anytime I see it, I sigh and throw a fist of despair to the heavens. Why is this message the bane of most remote workers’ existence in an era of high-speed internet and cutting-edge technology? Let’s dive into the intricacies of network traffic flow and why real-time applications are so darn sensitive.

The Digital Highway–Understanding Network Traffic Flow

Imagine your internet connection as a highway. The data packets are the vehicles, and just like rush-hour traffic, sometimes the routes get congested. The speed and volume at which these packets travel depend on multiple factors: your internet speed, the type of data, and the number of devices connected, to name a few.

Real-time applications, like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, are not just about speed; they demand consistency. It’s not enough that your packets reach their destination quickly. They need to arrive in the proper order and without any delays. Even a brief hiccup can make voice and video choppy.

The Need for Consistency in Real-time Applications

Real-time communication tools rely on what we call “UDP” (User Datagram Protocol). Unlike “TCP”(Transmission Control Protocol), where data is sent, checked, and re-sent if there are any issues, UDP keeps sending data without checking for receipt.UDP makes it faster and ideal for live video or audio–but it’s also why you can’t afford any instability. Think of it this way: if you’re watching a pre-recorded video with a hiccup in the data flow, it might buffer briefly. But in a live video meeting, there’s no time for buffering, so you get lag, or worse, disconnections.

Why You?

You might wonder why you’re facing this issue when you’ve invested in high-speed internet. Unfortunately, speed isn’t everything.

  • Bandwidth: Everyone’s at home–kids attending online classes, partners streaming movies, and here you are, trying to hold a video conference. All these activities eat into your available bandwidth.
  • Wi-Fi Signal: The further you are from your router, the weaker the signal. Walls, floors, and other electronic devices can interfere with your connection.
  • ISP Issues: Sometimes, the problem is with your Internet Service Provider. They may face issues or conduct maintenance, leading to those dreaded “unstable internet” messages.
  • Outdated Hardware or Software: Ensure that your hardware and software are updated with the latest updates and patches to avoid compatibility issues with your critical collaboration tools.

So, How Can You Combat the Instability?

  • Wired Over Wireless: Connect your device directly to your router using an Ethernet cable if possible. A direct connection is often more stable than Wi-Fi. In your network, you may find a use for ethernet extenders or adapters that can utilize the co-ax”cable” wire that most homes, offices, and RV’s are wired for. We like these MoCA Adapters from Motorola.
  • Optimize Your Wi-Fi: Place your router in a central location. Consider upgrading to a mesh network system if you have a large home. These systems use multiple access points to ensure a consistent sign throughout your home. Also, pay attention to the frequency of the network you connect to your devices. Most routers offer 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. If possible, connect your critical devices to the 5GHz connection for the best transmission speed.
  • Limit Bandwidth Usage: If you have a critical meeting, maybe ask the rest of the household to avoid bandwidth-heavy activities for their duration. To ensure that tablets, smart TVs, and any other connected devices aren’t pulling too heavily from your available bandwidth, consider changing the delivered quality of your streaming apps. This will conserve data usage and help to keep large draws of data from disrupting your video meeting when someone starts to watch a movie.
  • VPN: If you’re using a VPN, understand that it can slow down your connection.If your security protocols allow it, disconnect from the VPN during essential calls or take the calls from your mobile video application while leaving your laptop in play for a segregated solution.
  • Quality of Service (QoS) Settings: Some routers allow you to prioritize traffic for specific applications. If yours does, prioritize your video conferencing tools.
  • ISP and Plan Upgrade: Sometimes, it might be time to look for a new ISP or upgrade your current plan. Unfortunately, the residential options for internet services are often dismal. If this is the case where you live, consider satellite or wireless internet connections.

I’ve Tried All of the Above. Now What?

Upgrade your home network with SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network). Widely used in businesses across the globe, SD-WANgear configurations include QoS, Hot Failover to secondary connections, and advanced network routing to ensure that Zoom, MS Teams, VoIP phone calls, and other sensitive applications get enough consistent real-time traffic to be stable.

Suppose you can add a secondary connection to your properly configured SD-WAN gear. In that case, the software will recognize when one signal is weak or congested and supplement it with additional packets over the secondary connection. This holds true regardless of where you are working from. If you’re traveling, adding a second SIM card-based data plan or satellite connection will improve your experience. If you’re stationary and suffer from a poor residential connection, SD-WAN can add resiliency to your home network by acting as the traffic control on your digital highway.

While the “unstable internet” warnings are the bane of many remote workers’ existence, understanding the reasons behind them and taking proactive steps can help.

Here’s to smoother, clearer, and more stable video calls in our future! Don’t suffer. Please drop us a note at info@goRoam.tech to cure your plague.

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