Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

27.3.2020 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 191


Many people talk about the pace of change ‘these days’ but I think it would be fair to say that COVID-19 has delivered a world where the pace of change is not measured in years or months but in hours and minutes. Just when we think we have somewhat of a handle on how the world will look going forward, the ground shifts from underneath us.

From a technology perspective, I spend the majority of my days helping clients improve their remote connectivity to satisfy their requirements in working or studying remotely. If there is any positive from COVID-19 it may be that, in the future, we have an entirely different approach to our idea of where the workplace is. Less commuting would mean benefits for humans and the environment.

As a result of people staying at home, our Internet traffic across the entire world has increased by 8 per cent with some parts of the world seeing an increase of 50 per cent. This is placing incredible stress on the entire Internet and, although it is coping at this stage, it is certainly under stress. Major streaming providers have tried to help with the problem by reducing the quality of their streaming services. It may seem a backward step but the lower quality streaming has a dramatic overall impact on the strain placed on the Internet.

Apart from people having time to watch streaming TV while they sit at home and worry about whether to pay their rent or buy food, the main use of the Internet is to allow people to try and continue on with a normal life while physically located at home. That can involve working with video or tele conferencing and, in general, accessing their normal work tools while at a remote location.

With the advent of the NBN, you would think that Australia is perfectly positioned for remote connections. Yes and no. Let me start first of all with a major bugbear I have with our current NBN solution. I remember way back in 2009 when I was sitting in the office of then Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy. Satellite was part of the overall new drive forward with modern communications but I argued satellite was just not good enough. At a height of 35,786km above the earth and the maximum speed of electromagnetic waves, as first proposed by James Maxwell in 1865, the inherent latency of 477 milliseconds renders any experience with satellite involving two-way communications near useless. Fine for watching movies but remote working becomes problematic.

For people currently using satellite I typically recommend they use external antennas or signal boosters or stand on one leg and hang their tongue out or use any method possible to gain access to mobile broadband and then use a dedicated mobile broadband device to gain access to the Internet. Unfortunately, the plans are not as attractive as fixed NBN services but, depending on reception, the speeds are usually quite reasonable.

The connection is the crucial component but, once you have that finalised, it is then a matter of deciding what you need to do while you are remote and what tools you need. Will generic tools – word processing, spreadsheets for example - cover all your needs or do you have proprietary tools that you need to use. Are these located in your workplace or are they available in the cloud. One huge advantage of businesses that have moved many services to the cloud is that accessing those services is easier from a variety of locations.

Tell me what technology you need to work remotely at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson