Monday, July 14, 2008

Managing Bandwidth for Improved Telecommuting

I am not a network geek. Oh, I can talk about ports in a firewall, and I can usually remember how to convert kilobytes to megabytes or whatever (usually after reviewing the Wikipedia article that details which is what) but I really just want to view my internets as a service much like the electricity that comes to my house.

I pay the bill, they deliver as much electricity as I wish to use.

Is that hard? No, it is not. I don't generally have to worry my pretty little head over whether the lamp in the living room is competing for electricity with the refrigerator -- they each get the juice they need to give me a flattering glow and keep the beer cold all at the same time.

I can't get this same level of reliability from my internets, though. I pay a non-trivial amount of money to those monopolistic weasels at Comcast (more than I pay for electricity I might add!) and what do I get? Not enough bandwidth so that I can do an online meeting and talk on VoIP at the same time. Forget about other users of my home network being able to do simple things like check their email at the same time as I'm working. Oh, and running any of it through the VPN? Perish the thought.

Frankly, it sucks.

I've done a few things to minimize Comcast's ability to bogart my workday, however:

1. POTS: I use a local telephone landline. Of course, the local carrier can't give me an area code where my employer is located, so I use a SkypeIn number that is forwarded to my POTS line. So people in the Real Office can call a number that appears to be local to them, and it rings on my Albuquerque plain old telephone. As an added bonus, I forward that "office" number to my Crackberry on the weekends, or when I'm on site and not at my computer as much as when I'm in the home office, so that it continues to ring wherever I may be.

2. Find Backups: I've found at least three places in my neighborhood that offer free Wi-Fi -- one of them is a barbeque joint that makes me a little nervous, but who says you can only have coffee when you're working? I'm having a pulled pork sandwich during this meeting! In the event of a Comcast flakeout, I'll repair to the Golden Pride and be back in business.

3. Despair: Okay, this isn't actually helping much, but admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it.

Does anyone have any other techniques for handling my network traffic better that don't require a T-1 line to my house? Don't think I'm not considering becoming a minor network provider and sharing the T-1 love with friends and family through some sort of ill-conceived turning my home office into a micro-ISP scheme.

There has to be something between cruddy and ridiculous that I could be doing to improve my performance.

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