Tagged: QoS

Beating around the Bush with the Internet


Well, I could not think of a better title to this blog post !

Our home had a 300 MBPS fibre internet connection for the past couple of years, and recently the contract ended. I was paying a price higher than that for 1 GBPS (1,000 MBPS) fibre connectivity for more than a year, as there was no point in upgrading during the contract or breaking the contract. This is always the case as the lock-in period deters people from much necessary upgrades, unless one is prepared to pay much more or incur a penalty.

So, once I was out of the contract, I decided to upgrade the internet speed to 1 GBPS. I was really salivating at the possibilities afforded by increased speed of access, and was hoping that the sales talk was for real – in the sense, that my access speeds will at least triple from where they were before the upgrade. Not an unrealistic expectation, I would say.

But then, reality is always different.

I got the speed upgraded and the provider installed a D-Link cylindrical router in the place of my much-loved ASUS router (which incidentally would be able to handle the increased speed as I found out later). It was a simple installation lasting less than 10 minutes and the guy from the service provider took my signature and left upon completion of his work.

Within couple of hours after the upgrade, complaints started from my household with regard to the speed and quality of the internet access – the speed was apparently lower than the previous lower speed of 300 MBPS! Further, there was “fading in” and “fading out” of the internet – it comes and goes type of complaint. I embarked on some serious testing and found that the complaints were true. I was upset that the provider could do such a shoddy job.

I contacted the service provider and some gracious technical person guided me through the troubleshooting and we jointly found that the old ethernet cable was the problem. I replaced the same with a new cable from the router box and the direct speed from the modem to the laptop increased by a huge amount from less than 100 MBPS to 700 MBPS ! After this experiment, it looked OK but then I found that the mobile broadband speeds and laptop internet access speeds deteriorated significantly after a distance of some 10 metres. For instance, I was getting less than 20 MBPS on mobile broadband just 10 metres from the router. This meant that my surfing from a slightly remote bedroom was impacted, and this was not the case with the previous 300 MBPS fibre speed. It became very clear to me that the service provider has not tested various scenarios within a normal household.

I again contacted them and insisted that their service person should stay on for atleast 30 minutes and prove to us that there was no problem with the internet. Surprisingly, the provider agreed and sent a technical person (who was much better than the previous person who just installed), and he modified some settings on the cylindrical router. I witnessed a massive jump in mobile broadband speeds on my Apple iPhone in the living room wherein the router was installed. It almost approached 292 MBPS on my cell phone, which I thought was fantastic. Further, the remote bedroom speeds more than doubled from the previous levels.

So, I thought all was good and signed off on this second visit from the service provider (within just 4 days of the original installation). I gave a strongly positive rating given the quality of the work done by this second person.

But then the real measurement of performance lies with the big users – my wife and the children. While the children were generally OK with the new speeds, my wife was not as she generally uses the internet from the remote bedroom.

I scratched my head. I thought this will pass and everyone will eventually be “OK”. That was not to be. My wife again complained and asked me why I have not implemented the WiFi range extender which has been under our consideration for quite some time, since we have 3 walls separating the master bedroom from the living room, and I had previously gone around looking for a suitable solution.

So, here I go !!! I went shopping yesterday, and bought a few items. I bought a rather expensive WiFi range extender (TP-Link) since there was a sales person at the Challenger Store who patiently explained that their expensive solution is better for Netflix Video Streaming as compared to their cheaper solution. I asked some questions and got satisfactory answers. I bought the more expensive solution which is basically a powerline internet range extender, came home and proudly installed it. I was worried if it would really work out for us, as I had the immense pressure of satisfying the lady of the house.

I did everything as per the book, “paired” the two devices of the TP-Link solution, and took one of these devices to the bedroom and inserted into the power point. It gave some initial troubles, but then eventually it worked…….we got some very good internet speeds for seeing movies in our bedroom. I am still continuing to test the product, not all done. However, I believe it is a good product. Basically, you connect an ethernet cable from your router to this TP-Link device and then pair it with a similar device. The second device becomes your bedroom range extender as it gives out WiFi signals of good strength via the electrical circuit.

Still testing, but looks good. Hope it is a good investment!

Experiments like these are challenging but good though somewhat expensive!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 October 2016

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Selecting a Web Host


I went through almost a week of analysis and talk (with vendors) before I decided on the web host provider for my company.

Like everything else in life, selection and decision-making always remain complex activities, despite the proliferation of information on the internet. More information, more confusion !

I played around with Google Apps for sometime, impressed by the versatility of the applications and the easy way of moving around the Google system – a hallmark of Google. I signed up for the Google Apps trial and quickly decided it might be the way to go. So, I looked up at the option of doing everything via Google.

While there was no issue in the process of web domain registration and plan subscription, I was surprised to find that Google fell short on two administrative areas (very important for a new site/company):

1. The service price was in Euros or USD, not in Indian Rupees
2. There was no local contact number for help desk, which is an absolute must – I was not going to waste time posting my problems on a forum, and waiting for resolution from other users or from Google

I then went on to examine three other providers: BigRock, GoDaddy and Yahoo.

All of them met #1 and #2 concerns above – they offer all their services in Indian Rupees and they have local helpdesk numbers wherein you can talk to a technical human being ! I tested all the three of them.

During the process of elimination, GoDaddy went out of the shortlist though they were highly recommended by couple of my industry colleagues. One reason was that their plan offering that I wanted gave only one (can you believe this) email account (address), and the other reason is that GoDaddy went down worldwide due to some hacking problem putting millions of websites out of business. That was unfortunate, but it did influence me – not as much as the first reason though.

So, the race narrowed to a tight one between BigRock and Yahoo. Both met all my technical and price expectations. Yahoo’s hot line was more responsive in terms of making a positive comparison with BigRock (I had expected negative marketing) and highlighting Yahoo’s email pedigree advantage over anyone else. There was not much to choose from, but I selected BigRock for two reasons which are not overpowering ones in the decision-making process:

a). The technical persons that I talked to at BigRock were very helpful in terms of going beyond their brief and trying to help out a new webmaster (!) ;

and,

b). The website builder that they offered had a slight edge over Yahoo’s though I was disappointed on the availability of business templates and stock photos at BigRock after I had purchased from BigRock !

After I went through the buying process, two people at BigRock said that I could walk out easily since there was a 30-days free evaluation with full refund for any web host deal. But that was not the kind of response I was expecting from a marketing company.

In the meanwhile, Yahoo has been diligently following up with me, trying to change my mind – all for some less than USD 100 business per year !

Well, having set up the email accounts and the website, now I am focused on the business rather than the site. Overall it is proving to be a good decision and hope the service level from BigRock will be better (and hope they won’t acquire customers and say bye bye within couple of days – not a good business sense I guess).

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
23rd September 2012
Mumbai

Selection and Commissioning of New Router


I have been wanting to replace my old (but tried and tested) ADSL2 Wi-Fi router for quite some time. It has been working fine, but there were two shortcomings that my family members kept pointing out to me time and again: one was its slow speed (54 Mbps) and the second was its distance reach (it was not able to broadcast Wi-Fi waves all over the house).

I was not much bothered about the first point, as I continue to use a Windows XP Professional laptop, which does not support the latest Wi-Fi standard and cannot be upgraded. And, I was seated just next to the router, so distance did not bother me. But what I could not withstand is the comment on “the lousy-looking, old-technology, slow-speed” router that has been delivering the goods for a long time.

Well, sometime we have to give up. So, after much rather useless defense, I started looking for a more powerful router.

It is always an interesting exercise – when there is just too much information, your decision process takes that much longer ! With the plethora of data floating around on everything imaginable via a google search, one can imagine the amount of time one has to spend just looking for things out there. The search did take a long time for me – almost a month I should say (albeit intermittently focused on this search in the midst of other work obviously).

The criteria I set were simple: (a) the router speed should be minimum 300 Mbps ; (b) it should be powerful with minimum two antennae, capable of reaching all over my apartment, with minimum two Wi-Fi bars on either the iPAD or the laptop in the remotest room ; (c) should have support for b/g/n standards so that it has latest standard support while at the same time backward compatible (I don’t wish to be left high and dry if my XP laptop cannot function !).

Ofcourse, one other criteria was that the cost should not exceed INR 3,500 (USD 65) which I believe was generous considering the fact that routers were available at half that cost budget (though without the ADSL2 modem support). I found a number of devices in the range of USD 40 to 60, but then I was concerned about meeting the above criteria successfully without any kind of compromise. I also had many options above my budget – some devices were priced at USD 100 and much above (the N600 variety with frequency switch between 2.4 and 5.0 GHz).

Finally, I shortlisted TP-Link and NetGear as the only two providers for my selection of ADSL2 routers. Unfortunately the TP-Link modem router that I shortlisted was not available in India, so I had to forego that, but the NetGear modem routers were available (with good localized support as well that I discovered only after the purchase though).

The device that I finally selected and purchased was the NetGear N300 Wireless ADSL2+Modem Router – Model DGN2200, though it is not absolutely the latest or the fastest. It had good product reviews and met my technical and price criteria. And, I got a discount when I shopped and paid for it online at the Indiatimes online shopping website.

I got this device recently and installed it today – though I faced some trouble, NetGear and MTNL (the phone company) technical support helped me out. I could set different speeds for different devices – my laptop still operates at 54 MBPS, but my daughter’s Windows 7 laptop operates at 145 Mbps (yet to try out the 300 Mbps speed). I am yet to increase the data transfer speed between the router and the iPAD.

Overall, I believe it is a good investment.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
1st September 2012
Mumbai

Warranty ! Insurance Coverage !!


Warranty ! Insurance Coverage !!

These features of any high-value product have a strange connotation in India. Let me explain. May be I had already blogged about this previously…….

I ran into this skewed intellectually challenging explanation on a Warranty Claim today – yes, Sunday. My Toyota car had a SRS (Air Bag) problem – lights kept coming on in the dashboard. So, I booked a slot for today to get the problem serviced, along with the regular servicing for the car – it had run the last 9,000 Kms without service. No complaints except for the above though.

I went early this morning to get the car serviced. After the service advisor noted down all the pertinent issues, summarised and printed out the tentative estimate, I was surprised with the estimated charges. But that was OK. What was a bit shocking was the lackadaisical manner in which he communicated that the SRS wiring problem will be fixed without the eligible warranty cover, since the cover does not operate on Sundays ! He wanted to proceed with the work, stated it might take 2 days, but was denying the warranty cover for which my car was still eligible (less than 3 years old). I told him that I would rather get the SRS fixed during weekdays and benefit from the warranty cover. Otherwise, just for my convenience of Sunday servicing, I have to incur an additional Rs 7,500 for SRS fixing !

It was galling to learn about the fact of Sunday non-warranty cover as an aftermath of our discussion, in the most casual manner possible. Shouldn’t Toyota inform customers upfront that warranty service will not be provided on Sundays ? I am not going to fight this, but I learnt that it is best to adjust and avoid problems such as this, rather than trying to change company policies or dealer attitudes. There is no time for consumer education either. Each one has to learn for himself !

Similarly, I just took up the comprehensive insurance cover for my car, all the time smiling to myself. It was just a piece of paper at the end of the day, required for legal purposes just in case. There was no insurance claim in the past couple of years, and there will be no claim again this year, simply because it is no use filing any insurance claim. If some fool hits your car, then he is not going to pay for any damages incurred by you. The insurance cover comes in handy only when you hit some car and the other car owner is foolish enough to make a claim against your policy. The complications involved in processing any claim, the need to go to a police station and/or a court of law, and providing the necessary documents to your insurer, just makes it very hard for the common man.

Well, that is the rule of law we talk about in India. And, that is the warranty coverage shocker and insurance laugh one can get while trying to maintain and sustain one’s car ownership in India.

Enjoy the ride !

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan
12th October 2008
Mumbai

Tour Operators


I have been planning an overseas vacation for sometime now for the family.

We thought we will do this ourselves like what we had done in the past, the most memorable one being the NZ Trip in December 2004. All the trip planning was executed by us, including motel/hotel bookings for that vacation, which still remains as our most successful one ever. In fact, when we took a vote on what will be our next ideal vacation, the vote was unanimous – a self-drive holiday in NZ !

The Indian tour operators that I engaged – all the three of them are top notch in terms of market standing, reputation, and longevity – were pathetic to say the least. None of them could measure up to the complexities required in an “on your own” kind of holiday. All of them promote such holidays at their websites as well as in newspaper ads, but they have barely knowledgeable trip advisors who could talk sensibly and keep up the commitments to revert on time. Time, that inelastic aspect of one’s existence, was badly managed by almost all of them, save one. Though that exception was mis-managed towards the end of making the arrangements by the winning bidder. Service Industry in India has a very long runway – you see that everywhere – be it in retail, banking, airlines, or tour operators.

The best thing to do is again to arrange everything on our own. But time in Mumbai is in serious short supply. Racing like it is Hong Kong…….one has to outsource certain aspects of one’s life to achieve efficiencies of operation. However what is noticed in such outsourcing is the lack of quality in the delivery of the contracted service, and inaccuracies in written materials to the extent that even air tickets are printed wrongly. Pathetic !

The service providers cannot hide behind the excuse of volumes to justify their inefficiencies and inaccuracies. Not acceptable. Not when you are paying premium prices to premium operators to arrange the best experience on your tours.

Well, let me see how the actual vacation pans out. That will help me assess the actual quality of service. In a nutshell, be prepared for poor service. That is the way it is here. Premium or no premium, Platinum or gold or silver – the service levels are delivered poorly by poorly trained executives.

All the Best for a Successful Week ahead folks,

Best Regards

Vijay Srinivasan
20 May 2007
Mumbai