COVID-19: Home Office Tech

In the office, we have amenities like a copier, scanner, phone system, multiple monitors, and, for special occasions, a fax machine.

But in this current work-from-home climate, how do you maintain the same level of productivity without all that hardware? I’ve got some options for you to consider.

Let’s talk first about the multiple monitors thing. Honestly, we’re at a point where I don’t know that most of us are going to get back to our office jobs, in the office, anytime soon. So, if you’re limping along on a single monitor or laptop screen at home, and you’re still gainfully employed, you may want to think about investing in another monitor for home. Again, maybe it wasn’t necessary for the one-off work-from-home day you may have had in the past. But if this is going to be a longer-term engagement, you may want to think about beefing up your at-home system. You won’t regret making that investment.


We’ve talked in previous blog posts about using a VPN or remote desktop app to get you into your work network and increase productivity. We’ve also talked about cloud storage such as Drobox, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, or various others. You can learn more about those topics here.



Think about your phone system. At work, you may have a phone with a sidecar that shows all of your co-workers and their free/busy status, and, with a push of a button, you can call someone up, conference someone in, or transfer a call easily. If you’ve got a hosted PBX system from someone like 702 Communications, you have great options to bring that functionality to your desktop. It could be as easy as going to the office and bringing your desk phone home. Plug that into your home network and bingo, you’re up and running. You do need to know that if you’re going to use your office phone at home, you should talk to your provider about it so we can update your 911 location. If you move your desk phone and dial 911, unless you’ve let us know where that phone is, 911 won’t know where to find you. If you can’t bring your phone home, you also have the option to install what we call a soft phone on your computer or even on your cell phone. This is a piece of software or app that becomes your desk phone. You can make/receive calls from your desktop or mobile device without ever giving out your home number.

And that all-in-one copier/scanner/fax machine you might be missing? Your cell phone does all of that natively or with additional apps. I’ve used an app called Scanner Pro for the iPhone for several years now. It does a great job of document scanning. With my AirPrint-enabled printer, I can scan something, wirelessly print it out and pop it in the mail if I have to. Or, I can scan the document and immediately attach it to an email or even fax it to the recipient that needs that document. The only functionality your phone and home printer probably won’t replace is the binding and collating your office machine did for you. You might have to employ a roommate, spouse, or children to help with that!

I hope this helps you be safe and work well.

Brian Crommett
702 Communications

Virtual Recreation

We’re finally starting to see some nice weather in the valley, but while that does give many of us an option to at least start to wander around our yards, there are still many great options out there to see something new without going anywhere. Institutions all over the world have put up webcams to watch or virtual tours to take and it really runs the gambit from Legoland to the Louvre.



Here are some options for a virtual getaway:

  1. Let’s start with Legoland. Of course, it’s not the same as being there, but it is kind of fun to see it just the same!
  2. If you’ve always wanted to visit the Smithsonian but haven’t made the trip to DC, or if you’re missing it and want to make another virtual trip, you can do that here.
  3. If you’re a fan of zoos, the San Diego Zoo has some great choices for webcam viewing of their animals.
  4. Something I’ve always been fascinated by is the Winchester Mansion. They’re offering a virtual tour these days (though it does cost a little money).
  5. One of my favorite places to visit in Rome is the Galleria Borghese. And while you can’t capture the splendor of the museum itself without being there, you can peruse many of the works they display.

So, by all means, get outside and get some fresh air and vitamin D. We all need it after being cooped up inside for weeks. But don’t forget there are great options out there for virtual tours and sightseeing as well.

Stay safe, be well, and maybe learn or see something new!

Brian Crommett
702 Communications

Remote Team Tips for Success

Follow-Up to KVLY’s Point of View with Chris Berg Appearance on April 10, 2020

Last Friday, Chris Berg was kind enough to have me on his show to talk about the current tech climate and trends in technology now that most of us are working from home. Specifically, he asked me to discuss the main issues businesses need to tackle in this remote work reality. If you missed it, you can catch the segment here.



Here are five topics to pay closer attention to:

1. Bandwidth assessments

Do your remote workers have the bandwidth it takes to work from home? will show the available bandwidth. From there, you or a team member will have a better idea of how successful you can be hosting or attending a video conference and how long it might take to upload and download files from a centralized location.

Factor in the number of people in the household trying to work or learn remotely. Remember, you’re all sharing whatever bandwidth you have coming into the home.

2. Security concerns

If you’ve got an IT staff, they’re working all the time to make sure the PCs you’re using are updated to avoid compromised software. In today’s environment, we may be connecting directly via VPN into an office environment.

If your employees are using a home PC, ask them:

  • Have they been diligent with software updates?
  • Do they have antivirus software? Is it up to date?

3. Communication platforms

Do you have a collaboration platform set up? Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Slack are all great examples of tools you can use to chat, videoconference, share files, screen share, and collaborate in real time.

4. File sharing

Are you going to have everyone connect to and upload files to a server in your office for collaboration? Are you going to utilize Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or some other cloud-based location?

5. Communication

Whatever your plan is, you need to make sure you’ve conveyed expectations to your employees. Now’s the time to communicate where everything’s being kept and how to use the tools in front of them.

Working from home isn’t going away anytime soon. While we’ve all done a great job getting our workforce remote in a hurry and we’re doing business pretty well, there is always room for improvement – especially if we’re going to see ourselves in this situation much longer.

If you have questions on these topics, your best bet is to talk to a trusted IT professional like 702’s Managed Services division. They can help assess your work environment and make recommendations so that we can all stay home and work well.

Brian Crommett
702 Communications

Bandwidth Assessment

Going into the remote work/E-Learning stage that we’re all in right now, the number one concern I’ve heard is, “I wonder if I’ll need more Internet for all this.”

It’s not surprising that people don’t know the answer, but with a little information, you can pretty easily assess your needs.

First, we need to talk about the “two sides” of the Internet. I’m talking about your Wide Area Network, or WAN connection, versus your Local Area Network or LAN connection. They’re very different things, but both are important when setting expectations for performance.

Your WAN connection is what you’re going to buy from your Internet provider. You might have 10Mb or 25Mb or 100Mb or even 1000Mb (which is a GB or gig of Internet). No matter how many people or devices you have in your home, you never have more capacity than the WAN connection you’re buying from your provider.

Your WAN connection plugs in or “terminates” in your home router. That may be a piece of equipment your service provider owns, or it may be something you own. But that’s the device where the handoff between the WAN and the LAN takes place.

Your LAN, then, is the other side of the Internet. You may plug a computer or gaming console into your router, or you may connect to your router via Wi-Fi. The biggest things to consider with your Wi-Fi plan are coverage and interference.

Regarding coverage: For many homes, a single router works just fine and provides adequate coverage to all corners of the house. If you’ve got a very large house, or very insulated walls or any number of other factors that may inhibit Wi-Fi signals, you may need to consider a second access point or a Wi-Fi mesh system.

Regarding interference: We don’t see this as much as we used to, especially with more and more dual-band routers in the market, but sometimes we can still have problems with Wi-Fi interference in apartments and dorm rooms. When you get so many routers all trying to broadcast on the same Wi-Fi channels, that can cause interference. Devices may lose connectivity in these cases. Dual-band routers almost always work better in these situations, but it’s important to note that dual-band router signals may not travel as far.



Now that we understand a little more about WAN/LAN, let’s talk about your actual needs.

Most home Internet plans have different download and upload rates. You may subscribe to a plan that has 100Mb down but only 10Mb up. And in most cases, that works just fine. For normal life, you’re doing more downloading than you are uploading. Think of watching a movie on something like Netflix. You’re downloading that content from their most local servers. For high-definition you need about 5Mb down. For 4k, you need 25Mb down. If you’re the one providing the content, though, if you’re doing two-way video, then your needs switch. You need both download AND upload if you’re going to do it in high definition and high quality. If you only have 10Mb up, you can see where you might run into bandwidth trouble in a hurry if you, your spouse, and your student are all trying to video conference at the same time.

Now, that said, the programs we’re all using do a pretty good job of scaling back the video to use the available bandwidth, so I’m not saying your calls are guaranteed to fail. But you do need to go into your days with eyes wide open.

Do the math. Review your bill to verify the speed of your Internet package. Look at everyone’s schedules. When do you all have calls? What’s your total available bandwidth?

If you need to upgrade, talk to your provider. If you need to coordinate better with your family members, try that.

It’s all about understanding what you have and what you need.

I hope this helps you be safe and work well.

Brian Crommett
702 Communications