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Integration Guide to Networking – Keeping the Network Strong

Weak networks have become exposed thanks to the pandemic, but that provides upgrade opportunities for prepared integrators.

Access Networks support and resources have been crucial to the development of Macauley’s networking processes and best practices.

Home: it’s where the network lives. With more and more devices and streaming services coming on to home networks, having strong and secure networks is imperative, especially for taking advantage of the growing upgrade opportunities in this time of quarantine and customer needs and wants. Being prepared can yield profitable results.

“We’re going PPE all the way with disposable gloves, masks, and booties, and then removing and disposing of all PPE after we leave the customer’s home,” says Joe Whitaker, president, Thoughtful Integrations. “We want to protect our customers and employees working in those environments.”

In addition, his company is disinfecting all products going into customers’ homes and sanitizing vehicles daily with disinfecting products and ionizers. “We are always identifying ways to reduce exposure to clients with preconfigured systems for reduced time spent in the home, and with more of a plug-and-play experience. For clients with underlying health issues, we offer preconfigured systems, dropping off completely sanitized systems for them to be ‘walked through’ over the phone for quick plug-in instruction, system functionality, and proper operation. The remote management with Luxul’s ProWatch allows us to see system status and receive any system down notifications and take steps to correct remotely.”

Related: Building a Robust Network

Ian Shaw, vice president of business development, Macauley Technologies

Macauley Technologies, an Access Networks dealer, began to see an influx in network upgrades in late 2019, even before COVID-19 hit, says vice president of business development, Ian Shaw. “In March 2020, our business began to drop significantly. Fairly quickly though, as people were working from home and generally spending more time there, the calls for upgrades began to come in. We dedicated a person to the upgrades and fast-tracked his ability to schedule and execute the systems.”

Macauley also included information on its website and social media outlets explaining its exemption from the stay-at-home orders, adherence to the health guidelines, and its willingness to help with any home networking requests to help the community through the pandemic.

“So far, the upgrades have continued to roll in at a steady pace,” Shaw says. “The primary catalysts seem to be slow internet, usually a result of antiquated equipment and inconsistent coverage. Quality products and a dedication to training has allowed us to overhaul these homes with outstanding results. We are extremely grateful for this business and for being able to help make this quarantine a little more bearable for our customers.”

Whitaker says his recent upgrades have been focused on network and Wi-Fi improvements for speed, throughput, and coverage. “We’ve been supporting more network usage type devices,” he says. “Recently, people have been self-educating with online research, so when we talk with them, they understand more of what we design and the purpose behind the design. IP cameras and security systems have also been included in recent upgrades with IoT-type systems such as Ring, and IC realtime cameras.”

Luxul networking products in an AV rack.

The Best Sell
How do you sell and build/design the ultimate home network, using best practices, in any economic climate?

“First, I utilize the CAP (Customer Assurance Program) design program from Luxul,” Whitaker says. “This is a free service they provide; they guarantee the Wi-Fi coverage and back it up with free product if it doesn’t perform to the design. Secondly, I estimate usage of the users in the home and what types of devices or control systems will be on the network. Then, I can understand their priorities for internet/network usage.

“If I can run a wire to it, I hardwire it,” he adds. “When I integrate with remotely controlled/cloud-controlled devices, I run pertinent systems directly to the router. I always use managed switches because most of my systems are PoE port management and VLANs. With Luxul, I take advantage of Self-Healing on the managed switches for PoE port Auto Recovery and PoE Scheduling. And I always use an RMM service like ProWatch from Luxul.”

Related: Stressing the Network

Shaw’s team always begins by listening to the needs of the customer. “We ask open-ended questions to better understand their lifestyle and network use without using complicated terms or industry buzzwords,” he explains. “Our goal is always to understand the specific requirements of our customer. Taking that information, we utilize the knowledge we have gained from training with Access Networks and other industry resources to develop a network that will achieve those needs. In certain situations, like exceptionally large or complicated projects, Access Networks’ design service has been invaluable.

“Finally, when discussing the design with the customer we explain why we included each part and how it will impact their lifestyle and experiences in the home,” he adds. “Once they realize that they were heard, and that we designed the system to fit their exact needs, the price usually doesn’t matter, and the sale is closed.”

Media room supported by a Luxul network.

Macauley’s best practices include wiring CAT6 or CAT6a to all access point locations. “When in doubt,” Shaw notes, “wire more access point locations for flexibility. Access point placement is as important or more important than access point quantity.”

Also important are reservations for all permanent equipment, POE switch prioritization, and device/manufacturer-specific configurations based on devices in the home such as Sonos, Alexa, etc.

Other factors are consistency of IP configurations from job to job and documentation, documentation, and documentation. “We use multiple reviews of design both by other sales team members and technical team members,” he says.

Shaw says the Access Networks support and resources have been crucial to the development of Macauley’s networking processes and best practices. “From initial training to product and design support, they have been Johnny-on-the-spot. From the equipment side, having the ability to provide next-level service with their controller and monitored services has allowed us to up our networking game. We can now implement network systems of all sizes, from a single access point all the way up to an enterprise-grade system, utilizing equipment from one manufacturer. The efficiency that is gained by having this versatility within a single, high-quality brand has definitely raised our bottom line.”

With so many customers self-educating these days, a differentiating factor for Whitaker is Luxul’s CAP and ProWatch. “I am a Beta tester for ProWatch, so this is a huge benefit for client system monitoring, notifications, and status and remote serviceability,” he says. “Luxul’s Epic Mesh will be huge for my business and customer base. It’s a wireless mesh system designed for the integrator channel and it has the features and benefits supporting the needs of the systems we specify and design. I can offer whole-home coverage with better performance than the DIY mesh products on the market today.”

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