Has this happened to you? You are about to shine in an online meeting, ready to say something that will nail the conversation and make everybody notice you … and suddenly your connection breaks apart. Or you are watching someone else’s image move in jerky, halting motions with voices that sound like they came from a cheap horror flick.
Lost connections and similar internet interruptions seem mystifying, but they can usually be traced to factors in the real world. Some of these factors belong to the internet at large, but many are within your control. While you can’t control internet congestion or bad weather, you can still take steps that make a difference to your connection.
If you are having trouble staying connected, try these tips:
- Ensure your computer is within 20-30 feet of your WiFi (the closer the better), and not separated by multiple walls. If the distance is too great, consider purchasing a WiFi Extender.
- Consider connecting your computer directly to your modem or router with an Ethernet cable.
- Close all unnecessary programs, especially unnecessary web browsers and browser tabs.
- Ensure that only one online meeting is being accessed at a time.
- Do not use your TV for streaming at the same time as your online meeting.
- Minimize use of other WiFi-enabled devices such as cell phones and printers during the meeting.
Read on for a deep dive into the factors that affect your connection.
Factors within your control
- Identifying the bottleneck. The internet signal comes into your home via a Modem connected to a cable or a satellite dish. The modem can connect to your computer via an ethernet cable, but is more likely to connect via WiFi (a two-way radio-frequency signal) broadcast through a router. The WiFi router may be built into the modem, or it may be a separate device. Connection problems can be related either to the original signal or to the WiFi.
- Distance between computer and WiFi. The farther your computer is from your WiFi router, the weaker the signal is, and the more likely it is to be interrupted. You can address this situation by relocating your router, relocating your computer, or purchasing a WiFi Extender. A WiFi extender rebroadcasts your WiFi signal from a location closer to your computer. It is a useful solution if you live in a large house, or require WiFi in different parts of the house.
- Connecting with a cable. You get a stronger, broader internet connection by directly connecting your computer to your internet modem via an Ethernet cable. These cables, which look like thick telephone cords, are still available from Best Buy, Amazon, and other vendors. They work with the modems from most providers, such as Spectrum and AT&T, although you may have to purchase an adapter for your computer.
- Total available bandwidth. Many standard accounts with internet providers such as Spectrum offer relatively small bandwidth or slow speed, which can cause video delays or broken connections. Minimizing your total household internet use helps to maximize the bandwidth available for your meeting. If this is a chronic issue, consider upgrading your account.
- Number of devices being used. Each device attached to your WiFi—computers, phones, tablets, printers—uses bandwidth. The fewer devices that are turned on and attached to WiFi, the more bandwidth is available for each one. If folks in your home are using multiple devices, consider hooking your computer directly to the modem with an ethernet cable, so that you don’t need to share the WiFi bandwidth.
- Number of programs accessing the Internet. These days, most computer programs access the internet and consume some of your bandwidth. For programs like Microsoft Word, which occasionally calls the internet, the bandwidth is small, but for browsers that are constantly updating themselves or showing video ads, the bandwidth can be huge. Keeping multiple browsers or browser tabs open is a big drain on your bandwidth. Even a tab in the background may be streaming a bandwidth-hogging video.
- Multiple Streams. Online meeting apps like Zoom operate by streaming a video feed to you at the same time as you stream your own video to the meeting server. If you have bandwidth issues, limit yourself to one meeting at a time! Steaming two meetings at once, or streaming on two devices, puts both at risk of interruption. It is good practice not to have anybody in the same household streaming TV while you are in a online meeting, and not to have two people on different computers in meetings at the same time.
Factors beyond your control
- Total Internet traffic. Bottlenecks can develop in heavily trafficked segments of the internet, which slow down streaming transmission and cause brief gaps or even disconnections. Internet traffic varies by day of week and time of day, with weekends and early evenings, particularly Sunday evening, being worst. During the pandemic, traffic can be particularly high at these times.
- The weather. Electrical storms and solar flares affect internet traffic. Also, if segments of the transmission lines are above ground, the wind can be a factor.
- The other end. If the person you are watching seems to break up, or freeze, or start talking very slowly, it is most likely due to issues at their end.
- Online meeting company’s server capacity. Not usually an issue, because most big companies “rent” expandable server capacity from Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services.
Click here for more tips courtesy of the Zoom help center.
Check your computer speed via Speedtest.net.