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Fear being told to self isolate

What happens to my business

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Hi,

With three secondary school age children, I'm genuinely worried that I receive a call telling one of them to self isolate, which means in my area the whole household have to self isolate. ( or indeed through some other means)

I'm a sole practitioner with two new staff - one ending their first week, and are being trained in house ( after our previous nightmare employee who was supposed to be able to do the work)

My internet at home cannot cope with normal use, never mind anything else.

Trying to come up with some kind of plan, but failing miserably - any ideas?

 

Replies (26)

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By kestrepo
22nd Sep 2020 14:21

An upgrade of your home internet connection sounds like a no brainer and I am sure you will find a way to make it tax efficient too!! Ask your IT support company to set up a VPN connection between your home and work PC - or google it (it is not as hard to setup as you might think). You will then have access to everything as if you were sitting in your office. As a result you might want to upgrade your password for logging on - two factor authentication (2FA) is free on office 365 I think.......... oh....... upgrade to office 365 too!! Buy a scanner that will scan multiple pages and a printer that can handle a bit of wear and tear.

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Replying to kestrepo:
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By SXGuy
22nd Sep 2020 14:57

No vpn needed. Simply set up remote desktop on both computers. Job done.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
22nd Sep 2020 14:22

It's a matter of time, I guess, before you have to self-isolate.

We had crawl-speed internet at home during the first lockdown, which I got around by buying a TP-Link AC750 Wireless 4G router and, from Vodafone, a wireless 10mbps unlimited use monthly SIM only card (ostensibly to create a hotspot with my phone, as VF weren't keen on selling me a SIM card to go in a competitor's device). Check beforehand using a 4G Vodafone cell phone that you have a strong VF 4G signal at home.

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Oaklea
By Chris.Mann
22nd Sep 2020 14:31

It seems to me that, if the situation arose, where you had to self-isolate, you may have to "lay-off" your two new staff members, which may then permit you, to visit your office, remaining in isolation?

From what you say, your home internet is below par and being frank, Boris isn't going to send Gavin Williamson or, worse still, Chris Grayling, to help you out and you do have to maintain some semblance of order, to retain your client base.

I'd suggest that, with relevant and evidenced Covid protocols in place, some form of ongoing presence could be maintained.

Much, of course, depends upon the office location and set-up. If it's part of a multi-occupancy operation, then I think you'll need to think, way outside the box.

As usual, the devil is in the detail.

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By Moonbeam
22nd Sep 2020 14:50

There should be some IT person locally who could advise you. In your situation I'd be hopeless at working out what to do or indeed implementing without an expert on hand.

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Replying to Moonbeam:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
22nd Sep 2020 15:31

One of the factors that can slow down your broadband speed is when you have "old" and slow wireless devices (old smartphones such as eg iphone4 or older computers). That's because the wifi speed will run at the speed that suits the slowest device(s).

You can get around that by splitting your router's channels into two: a 5GHZ channel for most modern devices, and a 2.4GHZ slow speed for older devices. That's done in the router's software, which you can generally access through a URL address (mine was 192.168.1.1) found in your router's instruction manual.

Not splitting channels, ie running slow devices through just the one combined channel can have a detrimental affect on your broadband speed, which often slows down in stages until finally it becomes a crawl, with the speed permanently capped by your internet provider.

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Replying to I'msorryIhaven'taclue:
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By SXGuy
22nd Sep 2020 18:16

5ghz is indeed faster but also has a shorter range, so may not benefit if your router is in a different room. Best option is to either connect directly via ethernet or using a range extender.

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By SXGuy
22nd Sep 2020 14:59

Absolutely no need to change your Internet like others are suggesting. Just set up windows remote desktop on both your work pc and home pc. Providing your Internet is able to connect which im guessing even the slowest connections would, all your work is done remotely via your home pc using your work pc Internet connection.

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Replying to SXGuy:
By Duggimon
23rd Sep 2020 08:27

Remote desktop requires at least decent bandwidth. Your work computer has to send your screen to your home computer so you can see what you're doing, it can involve a significant transfer of data.

Slow connections also introduce input lag which will destroy your brain after a couple of hours. I've been on remote desktop for the last six months but I am generally using OneDrive to sync documents and work locally so I'm using the absolute bare minimum through the remote connection software, and I have pretty good internet.

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By PERMON
23rd Sep 2020 13:09

Remote Desktop is indeed very usable but I'm not sure about using it across the internet - I normally only use it within the internal network to access another PC.

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Replying to PERMON:
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By bendybod
24th Sep 2020 10:39

I use it over the internet but slow broadband will make it laggy.

Personally, when I had a family crisis mid-lockdown and had to travel to another part of the country and stay with my parents, who had basic broadband, I used my mobile to 'hotspot' rather than using my parents' broadband that kept falling over with my laptop on it. It did cost me a little extra data on my phone but if you are only concerned about it "just in case" then that would be the least permanent outgoing.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
22nd Sep 2020 15:15

Well my plan would be

1. Office computers (which I assume is not at home) acts as the main server/work machines if desktops.
2. You all dial in remotely using laptops or other home devices.

You can set up something like Teamviewer in about 15 minutes with little tech knowledge if everyone brings their laptops in. Do it once, and repeat.

i would also beef up the home bandwidth if that is an issue.

One mildly 'advanced' option is to ensure you can "wake up" your network remotely or it just comes on each day at a set time so worst case if it falls over it will be on the following day anyhow if Lord Boris decrees we must all hibernate. This is normally a BIOS setting but there are other ways of doing it. Get either your normal IT help or google is your friend.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
By Duggimon
23rd Sep 2020 08:29

ireallyshouldknowthisbut wrote:

You can set up something like Teamviewer in about 15 minutes with little tech knowledge if everyone brings their laptops in. Do it once, and repeat.

Teamviewer is extremely expensive for anything other than personal use, Chrome Remote Desktop is not as good but free to businesses.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By PERMON
23rd Sep 2020 13:12

AnyDesk is a cheaper alternative. Look also though at the TeamViewer's option for Remote access for as single user https://www.teamviewer.com/en/lo-remote-access/

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By Cardigan
22nd Sep 2020 15:14

This has happened me already. I would agree with the previous comments. Upgrade your broadband and install a connection between your home PC and work PC, so it will be just like working from the office. We use Teamviewer for this and it has worked well. There are other options. We use Microsoft Teams to communicate with each other. And I invested in a printer for home.

At the start of lockdown, I woke up in a panic early one morning and wrote down in a notebook all the things I would need in the worse case scenario (including non work things like keeping a stocked freezer). Once I had those things in place, I relaxed a bit, knowing that I could manage.

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Replying to Cardigan:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
22nd Sep 2020 15:41

Our office became unusable due to the multi-occupancy nature of the building. Two or three domiciliary care firms in our part of the building as well.

So in June, when lockdown was first lifted, we signed up for a detached and converted former cowshed in the middle of nowhere. Just us and some sheep and cows round-about. I was hacked off spending August moving office and bringing the unit up to scratch while everyone else was sunning themselves, but glad now that we made the effort. Splendid isolation!

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By Cheshire
22nd Sep 2020 16:27

Make sure you check out the rest of the village folk

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-54239180

Is it just 2 staff you have? I get the impression from your prior post that your issues here are in part driven by the ex staff problems and that you need a way to (a) check the work they have done is up to scratch and (b) ensure they are working when they say they are?

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Replying to Cheshire:
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By murphy1
23rd Sep 2020 09:59

Thanks. The two staff members are very new and have no practice experience, so need micro managed on a job by job basis at the moment, albeit both are picking things up well. This being the case it would be difficult to keep them working away.

If the staff members had been on board for a few months, ( and not like the recently dismissed one) I would have no issue with them.

Also, while a lot of our work is on the cloud in Microsoft, we have over 50 weekly payrolls and 150 monthly payrolls and all files are in the office.

Maybe I'm just a bit of a dinosaur!

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Replying to murphy1:
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By Cheshire
24th Sep 2020 15:15

I think, along with the internet issues that others have suggested resolutions for, you should consider getting the necessary content of those paper files on to a system that you can share with a trusted number 2, of not all of the staff. At least that way if you fall ill, you can leave it the hands on A.N. other on a temporary basis.

Feasibly could you share the work of the payroll out if you ended up laying off the 2 newbies? Is it worth considering pushing that out to a sub-contractor on a white label basis?

Otherwise its ensuring you get these two up to speed as quickly as possible on the simplest most straight forward regular jobs and trust them (reducing hours in case of need) and splitting the more complex stuff out amongst the rest of the trusted staff.

Random thought - do you know anyone who runs a part time practice who is not looking to expand/someome who has just retired who might help out if the event of any real emergencies? Not such an easy one. My son used to work for me, has another job now, but I can bring him back in if I get ill. Cold your wife help do the payroll if push came to shove?

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By mbee1
23rd Sep 2020 10:44

All our staff except the admin team have had the ability to work from home now for a few years and the current situation has proven that it was a wise move. We moved to a hosted desktop two years ago so anyone can work anywhere in the world provided they've got an internet connection.

We're completely paperless and , where staff have needed a printer, we've bought them one for home. Reasonable printer/scanner/ copiers can be had for less than £100 each.

We have started to open the office up recently but the recent announcement on working from home may mean we review this.

I don't think anyone can afford to be a dinosaur these days.

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Replying to mbee1:
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By kiwilondon99
23rd Sep 2020 12:10

" Reasonable printer/scanner/ copiers can be had for less than £100 each."

what did you get in the end - am about to look into these multi functions again - but horrified at how much the cv19 uplift on replacement new inkjet cartridges are !!!! my hp's have gone [ pre cv19] from a set @ 70issh to anywhere from 110 -145 !!!!

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By bendybod
24th Sep 2020 10:46

If you are mostly concerned about an "if and when" scenario of having to self isolate for a couple of weeks should you be told to, I would say go for a temporary solution such as hotspotting from a mobile. I did that when I had a family crisis and had to go and stay with my parents for a week as their broadband is dire. It cost me some extra data on my phone but if you're just looking for an option for two weeks to keep things going, it might be sufficient if you have at least 4G connectivity on your phone at your home address.
If you are concerned about a further lockdown period then I would say, from experience, all of the remote access solutions do need at least a reasonably stable broadband connection. If it is a problem in your locality then other businesses might be the best source of advice on how they deal with the situation. If said teenagers are likely to be streaming at the same time as you're trying to work then I would say you probably do need to look at beefing up the home broadband (which might not be as expensive as you think, especially if you use it as an opportunity to shop around and see what is on offer).

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
24th Sep 2020 11:06

Get better home internet, I have just upgraded mine to business standard and wasn't actually much more cost wise than before but speed has improved 40%. Also buy a commercial router and not use the one that comes free from BT etc will improve WIFI around your house. If some rooms are poor for connection use boosters all available on Amazon and wont break the bank. If the wired connection is not very good where you look at getting a Vodafone MIFI which maybe better. I use one of those when in Northumberland and the connection is spot on.

This is going to be with use for a while so you need a plan B in place. If you have to self isolate can you not trust the staff to work in your absence with a daily catchup on zoom/teams

If I am honest I was not a fan of working from home but managed quite well when I had to so I am a convert I guess.

I am back working at office now but currently getting office at home spruced up a bit to make it a better place to work with better kit as can see me having to work more from home, as can see this winter shaping up to something similar to the winter Jon Snow had to deal with.

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By C.Y.Nical
24th Sep 2020 12:41

murphy,
There is a lot of help in the replies but if you are not familiar with all this your brain will soon fry. But you can't rely on anyone else because there are very few contractors who really understand this stuff and who will work for a small business.
The core message in your original post is that your home broadband is inadequate. Here are the possible causes and some solutions:
1. Inadequate speed over your connection - use speedtest.net to test your connection & repeat the test at different times of day over a 48 hour period. This will tell you whether the connection is poor or you are suffering from "contention" - too many users for the available capacity. It is possible that your router is the problem so you might want to try an industrial quality device.
2. Check your contract to see whether you are getting what you are paying your supplier for. If not, demand they solve the problem. This will take ages dealing with call centres so depute one of your older kids to do it. It will be good training for modern life.
3. If you are getting what your contract says you should get, and it's not enough, try and upgrade to a better connection.
4. If this fails, and you have a good stable cellphone signal from any provider either inside your house or outside, do what ImsorryIhaventaclue suggests and buy a router which connects to the internet via the cellphone network. I have one of these on my boat - the Teltonika RUT950: https://www.rut950.co.uk/. These are like an ordinary router+WiFi hub except that instead of being hard-wired to the internet they connect like a cellphone because they have a slot for their own dedicated SIM card. You can have two different SIM cards in the RUT950 so that if one network fails the router swaps to the other SIM. On our boat it is utterly seamless and I can't tell the difference between being afloat or at home. I have a contract with EE but all the networks play this game now and you need to choose the network which provides the best signal. If you can't get a signal inside your home either (a) choose a router which offers a weatherproof case, IP65 at least, and mount the router externally, then run a hard-wire (ethernet) to a WiFi hub inside your house. For example: https://quwireless.com/#QuRouter Or (b) sometimes an external antenna helps, not always. Positioning of any external device is crucial. Find out where the provider's mast is and face it directly because the radio signal is line-of-sight. By the way, signal boosters are illegal in the UK and the networks are good at finding them.
5. If all that fails, assuming you can't afford a satellite connection (you almost certainly can't) it is sometimes possible to piggyback on someone else's better connection. If someone close by has fibre to the premises (or even fibre to the cabinet) this might work but it's a really complicated solution not suitable for a forum post. And if they have fibre why can't you?
6. When you eventually have a good connection to the outside world (your WAN or Wide Area Network) definitely check your LAN (Local Area Network) to look for the sorts of problems others have mentioned. Also consider creating a wireless mesh inside the house (basically a series of WiFi access points), I use these:https://www.tp-link.com/uk/home-networking/deco/ to provide the wireless (WiFi) connection between devices and the router in a very old farmhouse with thick stone walls.
7. It's pointless worrying about what software to use for monitoring others' work locally until you have a stable fast connection.
Hope that helps.

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By coops456
24th Sep 2020 14:10

First things first - is your broadband genuinely slow, or is it just the wifi?

It's always preferable to have a wired (ethernet cable) connection from PC to router. If you've got that, use speedtest.net to check what bandwidth you currently have. Then check it again when the kids are all online.

If you're using the router supplied by your ISP, check for any firmware upgrades and consider replacing it completely.

If the results from a wired connection are acceptable but wireless devices are slow or dropout, you'll need to improve your wifi coverage within the house. Look for a mesh system like BT whole home https://shop.bt.com/learnmore/bt-branded-products-and-services/bt-whole-... - you don't need to be with BT to use it.

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Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
24th Sep 2020 14:17

OMG - 3 children and slow / unreliable internet - I call that bad parenting!
It's not 1970 you know!

Priorities 2020:-
1. Shelter
2. Internet & power
3. Food / loo roll

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