How connected are you?
Are you hooked up, plugged in?
These are all terms we have heard before – but regarding IT? Do you know how you are using your connections?
Wireless? Bluetooth? Hardwired?
Hopefully these are things you don’t have to worry about, but you better know the ways you are “connected” – otherwise you will find a time when you discover you have been functionally illiterate, working and productive until you suddenly aren’t, and you don’t know why.
Usually the timing of events are not convenient or beneficial to anyone. Making a presentation, downloading or uploading a large file, or needing to allow a client to connect as part of a design meeting – times when you need everything to run smoothly. Events like this seldom have a great recovery – keep them as few and as far between as possible. We have one client that I swear has bad IT juju and brings technology – almost no matter what kind – to a screeching halt. Does that sound familiar? Be prepared for anything. Know what your reaction will be if connections won’t work – Plan B, C, and D.
Nimbleness in connectivity and command of at least the concepts of your software and hardware is critical. Sure, you can have someone be the gate keeper of things, but at least know the basics of how your devices are working with each other – or not working – so you don’t find yourself in a tight spot with no idea of how to wiggle out.
Can you diagram your IT world – your software and hardware? And their connectivity? Do this. Share it with your office. Have your IT folks correct you – and they will.
Recognize the difference between a router and a switch.
Know which devices need restarting, what passwords and admin log-ins are for those devices. Do you share access with others? Be ready to assist them in connecting.
Regarding the basic means of connections, I suggest you know the following:
There are several versions: Cat-5, USB, HDMI, VGA, MIDI, RCA, etc – most are falling away as time marches on, so for now we will focus on CAT-5 (CAT-6 is out there as well and coming on strong).
Always – always go hardwired if you can. For what will soon become evident if it hasn’t yet, hardwired connections are the most reliable connections you can have. No dropped signals, no interruptions of other devices – one pipe of data quickly moving from one machine to another. Speed is king. KING, I tell you. If you want fast and reliable, go hardwired. In your office, in your conference room, even in your hotel room.
The hard. wire. It cannot be denied.
A physical connection restricts. You have to conceal it, step over it, sometimes even pass it around like a joint…in meetings it seems like the Little Feat song, “don’t bogart that joint, my friend…” Sometimes you have to share the hardwire.
Do you know how to make a cat-5 connection? With the purchase of a few items you can be the master of your connectivity.
- Wire (CAT-5 or some better version)
- Crimping tool (beware, the knife blades are sharper than sharp).
- Instructions and patience
Look at your devices – make sure they are all at the fastest speeds you can get. If one is slow, they ALL are slow. Check your switches and routers to make sure they are coordinated in speeds. Differences can be in factors of ten, so it makes a real difference.
Look at the wiring demarks and switches – are the different network cables labeled and marked? Are they organized? How about the data ports you plug into? Label these – keep record of them and you will be able to plug-n-play, swap, and adjust as needed. If you don’t, you will be forever trying to figure out what “they” did as they placed your lines.
Seriously, knowing this makes you much less dependent upon others. It’s not that complicated and it makes communicating with your IT staff much easier.
This is the connectivities club’s sexy, cool kid. Everyone wants wireless.
Wireless wants to be as dependable as hardwired, and it almost is.
Wireless is infinitely more flexible and accommodating, allowing almost endless combinations of applications of hardware and devices. But beware of conflicts and surprises…
We use wireless to connect everything in our office from computers to our network, computers to Apple TV, and computers to our stereo, but it is not without its problems. You don’t want your Pandora station to start playing on your Apple TV during a meeting in the conference room…unless it’s a really cool station and a really cool client.
Wireless is probably the hardest working connectivity we use – it connects each user to our 3D printer, Pandora, Spotify, Stereo, and Apple TV. But we have to make sure it’s secure.
Case in point: I have had my dry cleaners down the street ask if they could jump on our wireless signal.
Ever use a hot-spot on your phone? Wireless. Protect it. Turn it off when not in use! Your data plan will thank you.
Keep it secure. Keep it secure. Keep it secure.
Consider the clients connecting in your office. They can – and should – be able to go wireless in order to have meaningful conversations and access info they need. But keep it secure! Maybe it’s a separate guest wireless account or other security measures (additional log-ins to go past guest-level access). There are several possibilities.
Then there’s BlueTooth.
I never paid much attention to Bluetooth, it has been the lesser of the methods of connectivity until now. You have an Apple Watch? You are probably utilizing Bluetooth. How about an Apple Pencil? Bluetooth. We utilize Bluetooth mainly on a personal level with personal devices.
If I could have a wish for Apple and Bluetooth, I’d wish that iPad Pros could be drawn on by more than one Apple Pencil at a time – collaboration is stalled slightly when you realize you can’t draw on someone else’s iPad with YOUR Apple Pencil – c’mon Apple, allow piling on here.
All this is to say the flexibility, redundancy, and options for connectivity make your network for design processes a web. Simplifying and managing this web will make you design world cleaner and efficient. You’ll be the better for it.
Wonder how involved this can be? We are an office of 8. And have 70+ connections of wireless and Bluetooth systems. Each device has an IP address, MAC address, and other qualifying information to keep track of. To see this in action in your world let me suggest FING as an app to consider. We have it and use it to organize and troubleshoot conflicts, disconnects, etc.
Knowing the basics of connectivity, the nuances between them, and how to mange them will keep you working, your work flowing, and the conversations going.
When was the last time you looked behind the curtain of your connectivity? Check your speeds, organization, and security. You’ll be glad you did.
Now we can start conversation about what to do with all this connectivity…stay tuned.
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