Don’t let internet outages ruin your employees’ productivity. Read on here to learn how to combat pesky internet problems.

However, even as companies launch 5G networks this year, access to reliable internet still remains a key problem for modern enterprises, impeding overall productivity and ultimately impacting the bottom line.Ask most people about how the internet affects corporate productivity and they will probably bring up how social media distracts employees in the workplace. However, even as companies launch 5G networks this year, access to reliable internet still remains a key problem for modern enterprises, impeding overall productivity and ultimately impacting the bottom line.

For those of us who remember how unpredictable dial-up internet connections were in the ’90s, access to the internet today may seem like a dream. However, while outages may be rare, they do happen.  When they do, they can have catastrophic effects on businesses.

According to new research by Beaming, as many as 75 percent of organizations experienced internet outages during working hours in 2016. In turn, this led to thousands of dollars in lost sales and caused customer service nightmares.

So while the internet may seem like an afterthought for busy business owners in 2017, here are four tips which could help you keep your business online rain or shine.

Rethink relying on your stock wireless router.

Of all the options available, Wi-Fi is known to be the most inconsistent, and fluctuates more than fixed cable ethernet systems.

James Lay from Hummingbird Networks argues that average Wi-Fi speeds generally account for roughly 30 to 60 percent of the speed advertised by internet providers. For example, if someone pays for 10 Mbps, they are most likely to receive an average speed of between three and four Mbps.

With most packages, internet service providers (ISP) rent their customers the same stock wireless router as part of their package. It would be easy to assume that these modems are programmed to offer the highest speeds possible

However, these stock modems broadcast on the same channels, which can cause interference if many people in your area all have the same router. Considering the limited options of ISP available and the amount of people living and working in busy urban areas, chances are they do.

Most routers have the channel set to auto. If you want maximum throughput and minimal interference, channels one, six, and 11 are your best choice. You can find tips as to how to choose between those three channels here.

Have a redundant internet connection for mission-critical applications and systems.

We are living in an age when pretty much every type of business functions at least partly online.

From PR companies to pizza delivery services, businesses can suffer high costs if their internet goes down for any period of time.

According to a recent report by Beaming based on 500 businesses in the UK, 3.9 million enterprises (72 percent of total businesses) suffered as many as eight internet outages or 43 hours of downtime in 2015, which accounted for lost productivity worth an estimated $15 billion.

With so many business functions moving online, internet outages can effectively cripple businesses.

According to the Beaming study, 13 percent of businesses affected said they started losing money immediately during an outage.

Large and medium-sized businesses were found to resolve internet outages the quickest. However,  due to their greater reliance on the internet for internal and external business functions, they lose much more revenue than smaller companies for every hour of outage they experience.

The most effective way to avoid outage is to have a redundant, or backup, internet connection with another ISP ready for if disaster strikes. According to Beaming, only 13 percent of businesses surveyed managed an outage by switching to an alternative connection.

The cost of having a redundant connection generally pays for itself with one outage per year, especially for retail businesses. With the Beaming report estimating more than 70 percent  of enterprises suffer as many as eight outages per year, a backup connection should be a no brainer for modern businesses.

When evaluating providers, take into account the technology used and upload speeds offered.

While wireless internet capabilities have increased dramatically over the last decade, Wi-Fi ‘dead zones’ do still exist.According to the 2016 Speedtest Market Report, the typical fixed broadband user in the U.S. saw average download speeds exceed 50 Mbps for the first time ever during the first six months of 2016, which accounts for a 40 percent increase since July 2015.

According to the Speedtest report, the fixed broadband industry has witnessed stark improvements over the last year due to consolidation, speed upgrades, and an increase in companies offering fiber optic deployment.

However, while new players like Google Fiber are joining industry veterans like XFINITY and Verizon in offering fiber optic connections, not every regional provider has the capability yet. Before signing on the dotted line with an ISP, it’s always worth doing your homework and checking what technology they are using to provide you service.

In general, we suggest you think about these technologies in tiers. From our perspective, a fiber connection is more likely to give you a stable low latency connection than a Tier 2 or 3 technology.

Tier 1: Fiber optic. This is best option, but unfortunately it isn’t available in all areas.

Tier 2: Cable internet which is delivered over coaxial wires and is generally backed by a hybrid fiber network.

Tier 3: If you don’t have options in tier 1 or two, look for DSL or fixed wireless options. It’s not well-known, but if you’re in a metropolitan area, fixed wireless providers can offer a great service, especially for a redundant service.

While ISP salesmen will promise you the moon and the stars, it is always best to ask for guarantees about upload and download speeds in your area, different types of connection which can offer the fastest, most reliable connections, and if they offer an SLA on your business connection.

Many ISPs advertise their download speeds, but some only release information about upload speeds on request. If your company works with large files such as video, webinars, and conference calls, a fast upload speed is essential.

Use Powerline Network Adaptors  

While wireless internet capabilities have increased dramatically over the last decade, Wi-Fi ‘dead zones’ do still exist. After all, the architecture and construction of older buildings built before the internet existed were not developed with Wi-Fi routers in mind.

The problem could be that your room in your office or home is too far from your wireless access point or due to the construction of the building: especially if steel and reinforced concrete have been used.

But it’s not just older buildings that suffer from ‘dead zones.’ Lisa R. Melsted shared how the developers of the futuristic China Central Television (CCTV) building in Beijing found that the design and structure of the building made wireless access erratic and unusable for many of the 10,000 employees working there.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel if you find your office or home riddled with dead zones. One option is to buy a wi-fi range extender, which is extremely affordable and can be picked up for around $30 from most leading technology stores. However, for harder-to-reach areas, powerline network adaptors can save the day.

Similar to the way data can travel over phone or cable wires, powerline devices use your house or office’s existing electrical wiring to transmit data from one power outlet to another, bypassing walls and frequency interference. While a little more expensive, ranging between $60 and $100 per pair, these devices are a lifesaver for tricky spaces that can’t be reached by wireless signals.

Considering how quickly internet speeds and wireless networks are evolving, many businesses assume they will be covered without doing any prior research into ISP options and coverage. However as residents of Sodo in Seattle found out in 2015, businesses can be left in the dark if ISPs drop or relocate networks, as thousands of businesses found themselves without internet when Sprint shuttered its wireless network in the area.

Fast and reliable internet is the lifeblood of the modern enterprise. At the risk of outages costing thousands of dollars in lost trade and productivity, it’s better to do your homework and take extra steps to make sure you and your company are covered should problems arise.

Nick Reese is the founder and CEO of FindBroadband, a new platform to help enterprises and mom and pop businesses streamline their telecoms costs.