Wifi and Mifi and Hotspots, Oh, My

© BrenDeBev (all publication rights reserved)

At 10:30 p.m. on the night of 29 October 1969, a student programmer successfully transmitted a message from a computer at UCLA networked to another computer at Stanford University. This seemingly inauspicious event marked the beginning of the internet age. In the less than 50 years since, the internet has grown to include an incalculable number of PCs, servers, tablets, phones, smartwatches, televisions, and other devices peppered all across every conceivable corner of the globe. That original network still exists today in an updated form. Virtually all of our data exchanges still access that backbone for some or all of the data journey.

In our work utilizing Eclipse’s Connection Magic server, we connect using one of four primary methods: hardwired Ethernet, wifi, dedicated mifi, and cellphone hotspot.

Hardwired Ethernet is usually the most reliable of the four. In this scenario, an Ethernet cable runs from your computer to a modem/router which is hardwired to a switching station nearby, which in turn is hardwired to a central switching station, which in turn is connected to the backbone, and then the signal moves on through more cables and switching stations until it reaches the person or persons at the other end. While IT managers and ISPs can throttle or otherwise manipulate bandwidth access, access is permitted to as much as is available.

Wifi can be nearly as reliable as hardwired access; however, there is more room for outside factors to affect the ability to establish and maintain a reliable connection. Distance from the router is an important factor (best results occur within 30 feet of most routers). Because more devices can access a wifi signal, it is possible to have too many people sharing a connection or a few people using a disproportionate amount of the available bandwidth.

There is much less bandwidth available overall to cellular traffic. While traditional internet users are allocated bandwidth based on their need (someone streaming a movie will be allocated more bandwidth than someone simply checking email), cellular internet users are each allocated an equal portion of the bandwidth pie. It’s possible to start out with half the pie, but, as more users join, your share can go down to a mere sliver of the pie. There is no method in place to allocate according to need; everybody gets the same equal share.

In addition, there are many more environmental factors at play, such as stone walls, heavy user traffic, and distance from cell towers. Even with a strong signal and good bandwidth, the traffic is much more variable with cellular internet connections. Just like vehicular traffic, cellular traffic experiences peaks in usage that roughly correlate to vehicular rush hour times. Even during nonpeak times, traffic can vary widely from moment to moment, causing great fluctuations and variability in the reliability of the connection.

Of the two, a mifi-type connection is more reliable than a phone being used as a hotspot. When using mifi, users are not sharing limited resources with every single other user out there; they are only sharing with other mifi users.

We have come a long way in the less than 50 years since the start of internet communications, but we still have a long way to go. Data sharing is increasing at a rate far faster than most providers can cope with. Connection Magic Shared Editing is an amazing method we are fortunate to be able to use; however, it is limited by the infrastructure to which we have access.

At Perfect Partners Transcript Brigade, we understand these technological issues and have a number of means and methods at our disposal to help us make the most of what’s available. We can quickly diagnose and recognize common shortcomings and offer options and solutions to help deal with them. We make it our business to try to stay abreast of the latest technological advances and changes in the technology so that we can help our clients have the most trouble-free shared editing session possible.

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