As your home network crashes who do you blame?

As a technologist, I learned many years ago, how to balance the two core components of implementing technology at home. The first was be able to take things apart if they cause problems. The second was be able to trace from beginning to end when you have problems. Why? First off because the more complex your home solutions become the more likely you are to have an issue. It is a corollary of Murphy’s Law (the more you work on something to improve it, the more likely it is to break). One that applies often to technology.

Most people have interesting home network topologies. Interesting in that their networks tend to be focused on two areas (media and work). Based on the reality of the Internet, and the reality of the router the ISP you use gave you, the likelihood is you have two networks in your house. You are using one, and if the ISP was nice they included both spectrums for you (2.4 and 5 MHz) they also nicely turned off the Guest network for you.

The Internet of Things is going to impact your network more than you realize. First off, how many devices are connected at any one time? Not computers or TV’s, but game consoles, home automation systems and everything else you have connected. That includes by the way your phone, tablet and other devices that connect to your home network. Those, by the way are the things you know about. You may also have devices post hack, that are talking on you network a lot more than they should. Back in the day we used to bring in the old Network Sniffer. It was an adapted Compaq luggable. Luggable’s were pre-laptop laptops. Basically, a huge heavy box you carried, plugged in and asked it what was going on in the network. Now the entire process fits into a tiny box. I run Pocket Ethernet on my network at home about once a week. Just to make sure I know what is talking on my network and how things are moving. There are people other than me that use my network. They don’t really know how the network is configured (somewhat on purpose) but they depend on it for school and work. So, it has to operate at peak efficiency.

Back in the day of the Luggable network sniffer we used to always start with this question “is the wide area network up or down?” Not asking the right now, is it functional question but rather the philosophical question of do you consider when you aren’t looking at the screen your network is always down or is it always up. This question is pre-Internet of things. Pre- cloud computing, pre-Netflix and other streaming media services. We actually considered in some companies their philosophy that their network was down. We built systems that operated off-line, and when there was available bandwidth sync with the other systems.

Now off-line is a really bad thing. It is the failure we design for. At home, it is worse however, first off because many people don’t check their home network. If you do check and confirm your home network, you don’t want to spend all day troubleshooting issues and problems. You do what? Put nothing on your home network?

“Listen I know we gave you a new Smart TV for Christmas Johnny, but you can’t connect it to the home network ok? Daddy has to work and your TV will topple our network.”

“Ok dad.” The three-year-old says. Not knowing what a network is, or why you would connect it. Later, when Netflix doesn’t work on his new smart TV he will know. But that is a problem pushed off until tomorrow after he gets home from Day Care and wants to veg.

Back in the ISDN days networks were slower, less reliable and ultimately went down at home. Now they are more reliable. The last time my network went down, it was the providers error (they left the junction box near my house open, and the rain water filled the box. Water and electronics are not a good combination.

However, that is the networks most people implemented 12, 18 or more months ago, they have not been updated, modified or changed. People just keep adding devices to their network. Look my new camera connects to the Internet. My new blood pressure cuff and weather station all connect to the Internet.

Oh, brave new world. Know what is using your home network. Someday you will thank me for the reality of a crashed network, and you know where it crashed and why. Turning off one device beats turning off every device and leaving them off!


Waiting for the other technology shoe to fall