One feature that we have learned to strengthen in our homes and offices as we navigate the challenges brought about by the COVID pandemic is redundancy.
Making sure that our homes are resistant to the hiccups, failures and outages that come with living in a third world country has been an obsession for many over the past 500+ days of pandemic living. Homes have been outfitted with emergency gensets, powerbanks, uninterruptible power supplies and backup internet devices to make sure that if and when a utility goes out, the work or school from home gets to continue with the least disturbance to the occupants who have been under house arrest for more than 18 months now.
The biggest threat when the occupants of a home are busy at work and/or school is a power or internet outage.
Once upon a time, when it was safe to actually go to work and/or school, most of us didn’t have to bother with the power security of our homes because our places of work or school usually had standby generators. However, now that 90% of family members spend 99.5% of their time at home, household heads have to consider buttressing the redundancy systems of homes.
For those with the budget, the solution would be a big-ass emergency generator with an automatic transfer switch and battery backup to handle the temporary load while the genset starts up. This way, when the power fails, as it usually does a couple of times a week in this part of the world, the genset and battery pack immediately and automatically takes over. There is no need for somebody to run out and start the genset.
A slightly more sensible mid-range option would be to ditch desktops for laptops and get a UPS-type device for the home’s internet modem and wifi router. Because most of our annoying power interruptions rarely last more than 30 minutes, having brownout proof laptops and a brownout-proofed home network mean a genset doesn’t have to be necessary. For those who already got desktop computers, properly sized UPS’s should do the trick although it must be noted their power reserve is only enough for a few minutes of use.
When extended brownouts are expected, emergency gensets will have to be considered. In this case, an operator will have to be assigned and trained on its proper use, especially when it comes to startup and transferring power sources.
The internet, which can also fail sometimes, will also need a backup. The easiest to access backup is the mobile phone hotspot which can be activated during a brownout. The important thing here is the internet devices have to be on wifi and not use a wired connection. The next best thing is a LTE home wifi modem that can be plugged into the existing home network via a LAN cable. As long as both the backup modem and home network equipment have power and the backup unit has load, internet access should return for all devices in the home.
The good thing when it comes to backup devices is that they can be easily loaded with data these days. There are even data plans that don’t expire, allowing the backup internet devices to be always ready to go at a moment’s notice. This is a big improvement from the days of yore, when data plans with expiration dates meant they were most likely expired and had to be loaded up before use.
Another important piece of equipment that needs to be on standby in a pandemic home or office is the USB wifi dongle that allows wired devices like desktops or laptops with busted wifi radios to have access to wifi. This little, rarely used and easily lost device is important because there are times wired networks encounter problems and plugging a wifi dongle to a desktop can give it access to internet from a mobile hotspot or a backup home wifi connection.
A successful work and school from home setup requires redundant power and data connections on both ends. That means even if we have already set up our home to be extra-redundant, the people or places we are working with also have to be redundant as well. If we are in a position to improve the redundancy systems, we should, because if one fails, those affected by the service outage of device failure will have to physically meet up to get the work done, especially if deadlines are involved. Anyone who has become used to working from home knows how much of a hassle that can be.
With a government pandemic response as incompetent as ours, we are still a long way from the end of this long, dark tunnel of despair. This means we that we will have to work on improving our online connections between work and home so we can still get work done regardless of whether connections are broken or if local officials start imposing granular hard lockdowns that will shut down areas without prior warning.
Being always ready to work from home or be indefinitely stranded in the office is part of our pandemic lifestyle. We’ve already survived 500+ days but we have to brace ourselves for more uncertainty in the coming days and always being prepared for anything will be key.*