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How Wi-Fi experts can help during times of crisis management

When faced with disaster response, wireless network professionals can volunteer their Wi-Fi skills and advise friends and family about home network security.

Given the complexity of current events around coronavirus, many of my fellow wireless professionals are understandably feeling somewhat adrift. How can Wi-Fi experts help? What can be done that can help our customers and fellow man? See if the following suggestions resonate with you, and know that we're all feeling the same anxieties.

Look for opportunities to assist. Thankfully, carriers and internet service providers (ISPs) are responding magnanimously with lifted data caps, deferred billing and other customer-facing gestures. For those of us who have our own customers, we may need to get creative to provide real value.

For example, I provide voice, video, LAN and wireless LAN support for a local cafe that is currently limited to takeout service. I found a way to pop up a new Wi-Fi hotspot in the cafe's rather large parking lot. The business is inviting folks who may have connectivity challenges at home to use the Wi-Fi for school- and job-related activities. You may find opportunities to volunteer your skills in your community as various emergency-oriented facilities get set up. Again, be creative and reach out.

While many of our customer sites are idle during mandatory closures, you could provide software upgrades or similar maintenance actions to help get your clients back on their feet when they reopen. These freebies -- if you choose to waive your usual fees -- can help customers know we have their backs.

Residential networks have become business networks -- whether they are ready or not.

The home is the new enterprise. Countless families have had their worlds rocked with new work-from-home realities. Add to this the challenges of grand-scale remote K-12 and college attendance, and residential networks have become business networks -- whether they are ready or not.

Wi-Fi experts might be able to help family and friends to secure and optimize their new sequestered networking situations or, at least, talk them through tips on striking the balance between newly important and recreational traffic on limited ISP pipes. As part of our education efforts, we could help friends and family understand and not fall victim to new scams related to the pandemic.

Self-train and catch up on continuing education. It's easy to get depressed and fall into the trap of "there's really nothing I can do right now." My advice is to take the national news in small doses, and take advantage of newly available time to train yourself on topics that you either need to or have been wanting to. Or find ways to remotely mentor other professionals in need. You may need to get creative, but this is an investment in knowledge, regardless of whether you are receiving or giving it.

Do no harm. There is a risk of having new time on our hands and a desire to help in any way we can. It's important to not make things worse for anyone -- clients, co-workers or ourselves -- by taking on ill-timed experiments in configuration or network changes. Nerves are rightfully frayed these days, and budgets are drying up. One of the best things we can do is to not add to anyone's trouble.

This was last published in April 2020

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