I started writing this on Thursday afternoon while waiting for the Comcast repair guys to come fix my cable Internet connection, which went down Tuesday about noon. (And at that, I’m getting quicker service out of Comcast than Neville Hobson is from Virgin Media: he had to wait a whole week for service.)
To give Comcast credit, the cable connection is normally pretty reliable; this is the longest outage I can remember for years. But the cable connections into the house are a fearsome tangle of un-weatherproofed patch-togethers (what the Ur-Guru calls Third World cabling), vulnerable to all kinds of things—including Comcast technicians installing services for the other apartments in the building.
Which is apparently just what happened in this case: when installing services for the apartment upstairs, the last set of technicians failed to include a booster for our line, hence siphoning off half our signal to go to the other apartment and dropping ours down below the level where the modem could pick it up.
At least it didn’t take long to fix, but this kind of thing is woefully common, and the things I hear about DSL around here don’t exactly encourage me to switch. (Besides, the DSL available where I live is slower than the cable, though both are pathetic in comparison to what’s available in Western Europe or Asia.)
Many businesses these days are dependent on the Internet–mine definitely included. “This is why I have to have two connections,” said the Ur-Guru, who has both cable (at 20 Mbps) and DSL (at 10 Mbps).
It’s worth thinking about what would happen to your business if you had to go two days—or a week—without an Internet connection. If you’ve got the kind of setup the Ur-Guru does, and transfer massive source code files back and forth, then you do need two high-speed connections and an automatic fail-over. (For those unfamiliar with that term, it means that if one system fails, the other kicks in automatically.) While many DSL providers offer dial-up lines in the event of a problem, the most you can really do with dial-up is check your e-mail, and then only if no one is sending attachments.
On the other hand, if you’re a laptop user like I am (or can work from your laptop for an extended period if you have to), you have some other options. In this case, I just hitched a ride on the unsecured wi-fi connection the upstairs neighbors were obligingly broadcasting. (It seems only fair, since they were using our signal to power it.) That meant all I had to do was unplug my Ethernet cable and enable my wireless connection.
Failing that option (though if you work in an office building or live in an apartment, you may well be surrounded by unsecured wi-fi connections), there are plenty of other places to pick up wi-fi, like the public library half a block away, or the funky cafe where I sometimes meet with clients. And, of course, nearly every Starbucks and McDonald’s has wi-fi, though I don’t normally frequent either establishment.
My cousin Jason the Mac geek is away from his home connection so often that he invested in an EVDO card that connects him to the Internet via his cell phone provider. This costs him an extra $50/month on top of his phone bill and ensures that he can get online from anywhere he can get Sprint service.
Just as most of us have both cell phones and land lines, each to act as backup for the other, we need backup Internet service in order to keep our data moving—and our online backup systems working.
It’s also important to have a backup e-mail provider: for some reason, possibly related to a vDeck upgrade, my sallie [at] fileslinger [dot] com e-mail address wasn’t working at all for a chunk of last week. I have a good half-dozen other e-mail addresses, however, so that was more an inconvenience than a serious problem, though it’s a problem I want fixed, thanks very much.
So if you tried to send me any mail last week, send it again, and if ever you can’t reach me at my FileSlinger address, try sallie [at] author-izer [dot] com. (Indeed, a quick Google search on my name should turn up plenty of ways to reach me.)
If you have thoughts specifically about what I write here, you can always post them as comments instead of sending me a private message. I do post and respond to all legitimate comments.