Getting home networking problems fixed more efficiently
February 28, 2020 12:21 AM   Subscribe

I have encountered some REALLY difficult problems on my home network. It was very difficult to even find what to search for. Some of these cost me days of my time to fully figure out. How could I have found help with these problems more easily? Is there a professional service I can pay to get help? I have a Edgerouter Lite. Is there some remote support service I can trust to sign in via this and help me out when there's a problem?

Here are some of the problems that took ages to fix:

1) 2 DHCP servers were running and these were conflicting but creating intermittent faults. Sometimes there was no problem but as the leases renewed I eventually figured out it must be something to do with DHCP. I then found that one of my access points was running a DHCP server that was basically conflicting with the router DHCP server.

2) OSX was routinely messing up my routing table. It took me a while to figure this out. It was some sort of leftover from a VPN that had been removed.

3) I have an access point at each end of the house. They both had different names and devices would often connect to the weakest one. I had no idea all I had to do was name the wifi points the same thing and then devices can roam without any hassle! I can even mix Wifi-N and Wifi-G if I want with this with no ill effects so far.
posted by jago25_98 to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't have any direct suggestion for you. But I do have some thoughts on the notion of using a "professional service" to address networking issues.

Imagine I want to use my expertise to set up a business to help people get their home networking sorted. I like helping individuals - but I'm not willing to sell my skills cheap: my expertise would allow my to land well paid jobs in a business for example. There are 2 ways I can run my business and sell it to you:

1. I turn up at your house (via a remote link or in person) - I listen to whatever problems you are having and I then try to troubleshoot them. I charge you by the visit - or by the hour.
2. I turn up at your house and install a bunch of new networking equipment that I understand - so as to meet whatever requirements you might have. I charge you for the initial set-up and I will also offer to support the system I've built for you, if you wish.

My suspicion is that both you and I would do better on the second model than on the first: the second option allows me to manage my risks much better because I will really understand the devices I am installing. I don't have to deal with whatever random equipment you have in your home; equipment which may be old, configured in some strange manner or malfunctioning. As an expert, I might have found the problems you mention a little quicker than you did - but I also know it could have taken even me, a number of hours - and associated costs, that one of us is going to be unhappy to pick up.

If I bring along new routers, switches, wiring solutions, etc to your home then this will involve some costs to be sure - but none of this stuff is as expensive a long hours of wasted time.

If you buy my line of reasoning - then I'd suggest you look for somebody who will work on the second type of business model.
posted by rongorongo at 2:16 AM on February 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

rongorongo is correct: if you are willing to trust an expert, then trust them 100% and follow their advice....but be prepared to pay for it!

Some customers will insist that their problems must be easy to fix, and will want to go on a time-and-materials bill. But that often ends up costing more in the long run, due to trial and error, whereas "rip and replace" is a known cost.

Years ago I did some at-home tech support for people I worked with, and I found it really uncomfortable because I would say tht "It sound like $PART is fried, order a new one" but they wanted me to come look at it. After 45 minutes drive and 90 minutes of flailing, I would tell them that I did a little tuning up of their computer but yes, indeed, $PART is fried. and then I felt guilty taking any money, because I couldn't help them -- but I blew a whole night an spent a bunch of time when they ignored my free advice, so..... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by wenestvedt at 7:06 AM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

One other point: trouble-shooting home networks can be difficult because the range of possible causes is huuuuuge.

It might be a simple thing like "use the same SSID on both routers and roam freely!" -- but it can also come down to weird stuff like your neighbors' wireless bleeding over, or wire mesh in the walls, or bad wiring, or crappy ISP gear, or...

And a lot of that stuff takes time and a broad range of skills to figure out -- which, as rongorongo mentions, would get you Big Money as a 9-5 job in a real business.

It means that either real expertise is too expensive for most home customers, or charlatans offer to do it for nothing, give up quickly, and then offer to rip & replace anyway. It's super frustrating to see as someone who knows a bit of this, and hates watching friends get fleeced. The same is true with any other skilled trade, by the way: I don't know enough about plumbing or electrical wiring, so I have o rely on a stranger's assertion about their expertise when I have a problem.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:16 AM on February 28, 2020

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