For years, home networks have been the unsung and unseen heroes of an intelligent, connected lifestyle. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and network design and reliability came to the fore. Families sequestered at home fought for bandwidth as they worked and learned remotely. Wi-Fi coverage, speed and reliability suddenly became a problem for many. There simply wasn’t enough bandwidth to go around, and the demand for better enterprise-grade networking systems skyrocketed. Frustrated homeowners were eager to invest in high-performance equipment and upgrades to support their increased network usage.
Parks Associates estimates that 53% of households have “moderately” or “significantly increased” their internet usage since the start of the pandemic. System integrators were busier than ever with network projects. It was a watershed moment for the systems integration community, reflecting an extraordinarily strong and healthy interest in a historically “unglamorous” category of domestic technology.
Now, as family members return to corporate offices and classrooms, we are entering another era of home networking. Households may be less focused on improving their home networks now that they’re out and about, but system integrators remain busy repairing networks installed during the pandemic while continuing to grow new businesses. But they are experiencing a new set of challenges.
Supply chain problems persist, and staff shortages have exacerbated the complexities of architecting, configuring, and deploying high-performance networks. Hiring or training people to handle the additional workload is simply not financially feasible for many integrators, especially as we navigate an uncertain economic climate. Rather than letting the category suffer, it is up to manufacturers to step up and help supplements overcome these challenges.
Equipping bandwidth-intensive households with capable networks requires an advanced level of IT expertise that is usually well outside the wheelhouse of most systems integration firms. Plus, there’s less room for error than ever before as consumers expect more speed and reliability from their home networks.
Any downtime or disruption takes a toll on an integrator’s reputation and stifles opportunities to sell customers lucrative service contracts like remote network monitoring and management. The continued growth and prosperity of the home networking market can only happen when manufacturers raise the levels of service and support they provide to their resellers.
Certainly, remote management and monitoring are important components of a service and support program. Most integration firms have the people power and networking know-how to handle that part of the business properly. What some lack, however, are the critical resources to properly design and engineer an enterprise-grade network, not just in large estates but modestly sized network-dependent homes as well. The middle market is leading the home networking category and technology is advancing so rapidly that having a team of people to keep tabs on market trends and the connectivity landscape is critical.
Manufacturers can help with network design, configuration and remote management services
To effectively and profitably serve these customers, manufacturer service and support programs must provide resellers with comprehensive design and configuration assistance, as well as remote network management and monitoring. It’s been the missing link, the vacuum in the networking industry, and it’s finally being addressed through initiatives like our recently launched basic configuration services, which are far from basic.
Basic Configuration Services offer Access Networks partners something most cannot achieve on their own: consistent, repeatable home networks configured by best practice IT experts. The system arrives to resellers ready to install, enabling even novice integrators to manage any network project safely and efficiently.
These are standardized network configurations created from collected data specific to the project and compliant with the latest standards and protocols to ensure that each solution performs at the highest level. Integrators can get in and out of jobs quickly and without surprises during implementation.
This out-of-the-box approach reduces operating expenses by increasing efficiency, reducing truck shifts, and increasing revenue by easily enabling value-added post-installation services. Also, over time, as integrators become more familiar with the process, they can do some of the work themselves. Without even realizing it, they are becoming more confident, knowledgeable, and proficient in the profession of designing and configuring enterprise-grade networks.
Vendor-led design and configuration is a service and support model that will have a profound impact on the home networking market. In the current economic climate, it is even more important for integrator owners to find ways to streamline, simplify and generate profits without always adding staff to increase capacity and raise service levels. Resellers who may have struggled in the past to capitalize on the demand for enterprise-grade networking solutions now have the solid backing to take on new projects and provide their customers with the level of post-installation service and support they expect.
Recent consumer research from Parks Associates indicates a strong consumer appetite for additional network services. This can only happen by properly designing and configuring the network. Programs like Basic Configuration Services are helping to lay this foundational foundation and extend enterprise-level networking to the mass market. It’s something our industry and our retailers need to thrive.
Author BRYCE NORDSTRAND is Vice President, Managed Services at Access Networks (a Snap One brand).