Everything stops. An eerie silence ensues. My brain comes to a screeching halt. Fingers stop typing.
My Internet connection is down again. This happened for several hours a day for the last few days, and it has gone down this weekend, too.
Lack of connectivity to the Internet from home isn’t such a big deal to a lot of people. But my entire home-based business and livelihood depends on being connected at least 8 hours each day. Such is the mixed bag of having an Internet-based business.
Working from Rural Alaska
When we were preparing to move to Tok, Alaska, I did my homework to see how connected I’d be able to be from the crossroads of the Alaska Highway. In the beginning, my company was paying about $300 a month for the fastest DSL that Alaska Power & Telephone (AP&T) offered. It was a lucky day when fiber optic came to Tok last year, reducing Internet fees to about $79 a month. But when something goes down, entire swaths of the community’s Internet connects goes down with it.
I stopped by the AP&T offices today to find out how long the outages might last. The women there were very helpful, as always, the personal touch of life in a very small town. They explained that Spring is always an issue for their equipment. I would have thought the freakishly frigid winters would be the issue (averaging 45 degrees BELOW zero most winter days), but actually it is springtime melting of the ice and snow that wreaks havoc on the cables.
As we talked, I remembered that I had an old cellular modem through AT&T (the national company, not the Alaska telecom) that I used to use when I traveled - before the proliferation of wifi. At this moment, I am blogging on this painfully slow connection. But it is a connection, nevertheless.
If your business relies on an Internet connection being at the ready, here are some things to consider:
1. Expect outages. The Internet, like technology, is not perfect or foolproof. Something can go wrong, so it is best to be prepared, just in case. Just because it hasn’t happened to you yet, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
2. Invest in a cellular modem. If being online is mission critical, purchase a USB cellular modem from your telecom. Sometimes they include the service in your current Internet or phone plan or most likely, they’ll make you get an additional plan. I think I pay at least $30/month just to have the service on hand, more if I use it above the monthly bandwidth limit.
3. Find an alternate space. Even if you work from home, there may be another place in your community where you can get online - an Internet cafe, community wifi, the library are some possibilities. Explore these now and establish their hours so you have a quick reference list when your home-office Internet connection goes down. I discovered from my telecom that the outage was confined to my neighborhood. They offer wifi service throughout the community so technically I could have sat at one of the two (yes, just two) restaurants in town and connected for about $9/day. One of the restaurants is next to a motel that has wifi as well, although not always a strong signal. Still, in a pinch, it is an option.
4. Buy alternative tools. If you are still debating about getting an iPad or other tablet computer, consider splurging for the 3G version if you can get it. That way, you can tap into cellular service on a device that you can work on temporarily. I scrimped and bought the wifi iPad so if my Internet connection goes down, I don’t have cell access directly from my iPad.
5. Use your smartphone as a wifi hotspot. There are several ways to turn your iPhone into a wifi hotspot or “myfi” connection. Some involve hacked workarounds or you can go to your telecom and find out what they offer in terms of plans so you can tether your smartphone. For example, AT&T offers a data package for 4GB that includes smartphone tethering at around $45/month.
Depending on your needs, there are a variety of ways to get a semblance of connectivity and continuity when you’re in the middle of your work. And if you run out of options? Maybe a walk outside to get some fresh air might help, at least for a while? Better than sitting and fuming with frustration!
What do you do when your Internet connection goes down at a critical work moment?
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