Ask IT:  Working from Home Q&A

The global spread of COVID-19 has resulted in many companies mobilizing their staff to work from home for the foreseeable future. Enabling the entire company to work remotely has been a new experience for IT departments, which undoubtedly comes with many unique scenarios and challenges.

Mintra Group has over 110 employees spread across 5 offices globally and with a range of IT literacy levels.  Our teams have been creative and set up some interesting arrangements.  Gareth Allan, Global IT Director at Mintra Group shares his recent experiences to help ease the burden on internal support tickets. We have compiled a list of the most common queries that he has received over the past few weeks.

What internet setup should I have to work effectively from home?

For basic internet browsing and email communication then the recommendation would be a connection of between 1-5Mbps. In order to ensure decent connectivity during video calls (Skype/Teams/Zoom etc) then 5-10Mbps would be recommended. Fibre broadband normally offers speeds of 30Mbps and better, so would be the recommended product to select from your home supplier.

Does it matter if other people in the house are on the internet at the same time as me?

It depends what they are doing, but yes this can impact the shared internet speeds. For example, if the kids are on Disney+ or Xbox Live then this will degrade the ability to have a video call on Teams unless you have a good highspeed Fibre connection

How do I check my internet speeds and setup?

Your internet speeds will vary massively during the day. There are so many variables that can impede this. Test your speed using any free Speed Test (e.g. https://www.speedtest.net/)

Why do I need to use a VPN to access the server?

Some of your company applications will only be accessible from within the secure boundaries of the corporate network and not available out on the public internet. In order to maintain a secure connection then technologies such as a VPN (Virtual Private Network) are required to connect your device to the corporate network and then on to the required applications.

Cloud provided services, such as Office365, Teams, Zoom etc are not hosted on the corporate network therefore don’t require the VPN. If you don’t need the VPN then don’t use it.

Will I notice any difference in speeds when accessing a company server from home? 

With a stable and reasonable speed internet connection and the VPN enabled, you should normally notice no difference in speed accessing the locally hosted applications / data. At times during the day there maybe performance impact as the network is stressed with unusually high number of online users.

What activities and devices in the home use up most bandwidth and should I restrict these during work hours?

Streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ and online gaming platforms such as Xbox Live will use as much bandwidth as available to them. This can have a detrimental effect on the ability to have a video call.

Try to avoid the use of these services during scheduled meetings to prevent any interruptions. Some streaming services may have options to lower the quality therefore lowering the required bandwidth.

Are there certain times of the day when server access/speeds are better/worse?

Between 8am – 10am are being noted as the worst times as majority of remote workers are having morning calls to start their days. It also has been advised to schedule online meetings away from the normal start times, for example begin at 15mins past the hour.

Where is best to open, work on and save files? On the server or should I download them to my PC?

You should always continue to work on files in their original locations, on the server for example. Any files downloaded and worked on locally are not being backed up. You also risk overwriting someone else’s work if you upload and overwrite all your files at the end of the day.

Is there a maximum file size I can open, copy and/or save on the network remotely?

No, the larger the file then the longer the file will take to open. The better the internet speeds at home, the quicker these files will open.

Are there any file types that I shouldn’t open on the network, such as videos, images or photoshop files?

On the assumption that you have a decent connection, then you should be able to work with any type of files.

Does browsing preview images influence speeds?

The image still must be downloaded, but in smaller quality, so this would improve speeds.

What should I do if I can’t access the network?

If all devices at home can’t get online then firstly, restart your home router. If this doesn’t help, then you will need to report this to your home provider. If only one device can’t connect, then restart that device. If possible, use an ethernet cable to connect directly to the router. Any other problems then contact your IT team for advice.

It’s important to remember that your technical set up is only one element of working from home. Once you have all your equipment in place, take some time to think about how you can protect your physical and mental health when working from home.

A designated workspace will help you draw a line between your working day and your down time at home. If you sit on the couch all day working, the chances are you will struggle to switch your mind off from work while sitting on the same couch to watch TV later that day.  We have provided online training to our own staff and Mintra Group are offering our DSE & Ergonomics training free of charge. This course is available to everyone, to help you learn how to best set up your work area safely and comfortably. You can learn more about this here.

Our Global HR Manager has shared her advice on how to find a working from home balance during these unprecedented times

About the Author

Gareth has worked for Mintra Group for 10 years based in our Aberdeen, UK office. He has been working in IT in the Oil and Gas industry for 22 years. His role involves providing a secure and reliable IT service to the global workforce at Mintra. He enjoys sports, cooking, travel and family time with his wife and two young daughters.

Gareth Allan

Global IT Director

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