As the coronavirus pandemonium engulfs the world, a large number of employees working using information technology work from home. It is now commonplace for both husband and wife to keep their home office busy in one corner of the house.
This is true, helping to control the spread of the virus by preventing people from gathering and traveling from one side to the other. But there is another unexpected consequence of the Work From Home rotation: Users around the world are beginning to feel that their internet connection is inadequate!
Yes, the direct impact of all people suddenly starting to work from home is now on the internet infrastructure. That is, there is a variation in the operation of the Internet connection as the pressure exceeds the expected level.
You may ask how it is. Even before coronavirus came in, people were using the internet at home, still using it. But why is there not a problem?
The answer to this question is simple – there is a lot of difference between using the Internet at home and using the Internet to work from home. The software used in both jobs is different, and the amount of data used by those programs is different.
When doing any work using the Internet, the device we use (computer, mobile, etc.) exchanges some data with the device on the other side (eg the web server). This is very low when sending a text message via WhatsApp, making HD quality video extremely enjoyable. The amount of data that is exchanged and how quickly that exchange takes place is determined by the internet connection agencies – based on the fees we charge.
Its bandwidth is a measure of how much data a particular connection can handle in a given period of time. We currently measure this using the Megabits Per Second (MBPS) unit. The bandwidth of our connection is ೨೦ MBPS which means that the connection is capable of transferring about 1 crore bit (2 megabits) of data per second. This includes all the data we send and receive (including web sites).
Since the bandwidth available for data transfer at any given time is based on many factors, it is common practice to specify this number as long as possible (eg ‘up to 2 mbps’). That is, the actual bandwidth of a connection with ‘up to ೫೦ MBPS’ bandwidth can be as much as ೫೦ MBps or less. All devices that use that connection share the total bandwidth available to the home.
Working from home requires sending messages (email, chat, etc.) to colleagues, contacting the organization’s servers, and using those servers from here on out. Often such tasks require large amounts of data transfer. We need to share our voice, video and presentations with colleagues across the country while still sitting at home and attending meetings.
Not only that, of course, the bandwidth of our internet connection needs to be higher than normal. The higher the bandwidth of the connection, the greater the amount of data that can be transferred from one side to the other. The larger the diameter of the watering tube, the more water it can drain, as well.
Offices use high-bandwidth internet connections. Like pipes that bring water from the Kaveri River to Bangalore, large amounts of data can be easily transmitted through such connections. But home networking is not the same, there is no small pipe coming from the Bangalore water tank to our home and the amount of data that these connections can handle is less than the amount of water coming from it.
This is where the problem arises as everyone starts to work from home. In general, office work has begun to compete with the Internet at home. Moreover, in many families both husband and wife have to work from home. Since the children are on holiday, they are sitting at home and watching the video – the Internet is becoming increasingly popular for online games. When all of these computers and mobiles compete for the overall bandwidth of the existing connection, the workload of all available devices is slowed down. This is the cause of the complaint that internet connectivity is inadequate.
The speed of internet connectivity in our homes is not adequate, which does not mean that the entire internet infrastructure is under pressure. The backbone of the Internet, the large network of fiber optic cables that facilitate the exchange of data between different locations around the world, is capable of withstanding such stresses. The problem is in the last mile system that connects it to our homes. The system is not yet using full-size fiber optic cables. Moreover, the level of utilization of today’s context is also testing the strength of this system. Thus, there is now a problem with the internet connection of homes. This problem is further complicated by the fact that many people use the Internet for mobile networks in comparison to fixed broadband connectivity. All the problems of using mobile in the same area are now happening at home.
What is the solution? Can the contacting companies tell us that we will pay a higher fee and increase our bandwidth? It is only up to a point – as long as there is additional capacity in their system. Even then we need more bandwidth so those companies need to upgrade their systems. Experts say the situation has already come to pass. How soon such an upgrade is possible in the present context is questionable. Unsure of how long the excess demand may last, there is also confusion about whether or not to invest new. Amid this confusion, there have been some attempts to reduce the pressure on mobile networks (eg displaying SD videos instead of HD on mobile).
Overall, this unexpected scenario brought on by the threat of coronavirus poses new challenges to the world of information technology. For many organizations and employees who see home work as an added privilege, this is now the only option. We only have to wait and see if this situation will reappear as the corona panic subsides in the coming days, or whether the work from home is likely to be more widely implemented.
We are less likely to adopt cyber security measures in homes when compared to offices. Security agencies believe that perpetrators of this situation are spreading the software in Kovid-1. It is also our responsibility to escape this danger. Spam messages that they can send in the name of Kovid-1 or Coronavirus – not opening links there, sharing our information at the sites mentioned in such messages, and downloading nothing – are necessary for our safety.