5 Tips to Troubleshoot Telecommuting Technology Problems

troubleshoot telecommuting technology

What do you do when technology is critical to your professional success but your Internet fails or your devices won’t sync? Telecommuters, you’re not alone. When common tech hiccups happen, utilize these five tips to troubleshoot telecommuting technology problems. 

5 Tips to Troubleshoot Telecommuting Technology Problems

The screen froze. The mouse clicks don’t work. The programs won’t open. The connection is lost.

Anyone who works from home knows that technology issues occur at the most inconvenient times. In this article, we provide simple solutions to common tech mishaps and malfunctions. You don’t have to be a computer whizz to perform these fixes, but you do need some basic understanding of your devices and everyday technology skills.

Related: 8 Tips to Overcome Your Technology Fears So You Can Work Remotely

1. Lost Internet Connection

Losing Internet connection is a telecommuting nightmare. We brag about the simplicity of virtual workflow and communication, but when our connections break, we’re left in a panic. If your Internet service provider isn’t experiencing an interruption, and if your computer has all the latest operating system software and drivers installed, then it should be a quick fix.

Key Terms to Know

  • Modem
  • Router
  • Ethernet
  • WiFi
  • Cable
  • DSL

First, check your network connections on your computer. If you’re using Ethernet, check the cord connections to your computer and modem or router. If you’re using WiFi, check the list of available wireless connections. If your connection name shows up on the list, make sure the connection is enabled or connected.

If your computer indicates that you don’t have Internet access, try rebooting the modem like so:

Unplug the power cord from the modem, wait about 30 seconds for the modem to fully shut down, then plug the power cord back into the modem. If that doesn’t work, roll up your sleeves and follow these steps:

  1. Unplug the power cord from the modem. If your modem is connected to a router, unplug the power cord from the router. Wait about 30 seconds for the modem to fully shut down. While you’re waiting, go to the next step.
  2. If you’re connected by Ethernet, check the cord for loose connections at both the modem or router and your computer.
  3. If you use cable Internet, check the coaxial cable connection at the wall socket and your modem. If you use DSL Internet, check the telephone cord connection at the wall socket and your modem.
  4. Plug the power cord back into the modem. If you have a router, plug the power cord back in the router after the modem turns on.
  5. Wait about two minutes for the modem to fully boot. Then, check your Internet connection.

If that doesn’t work, try restarting your computer. If restarting doesn’t work, try shutting down your computer, following steps one through five again, then turning your computer on. If that still doesn’t work, there may be a service outage, so you’ll need to call your Internet service provider. You can also use a mobile device to look up interactive outage maps like Downdetector for real-time information.

If the Internet works on other devices, such as your mobile phone or tablet, it’s possible that you need to update your operating system software or network drivers on your computer. If you have an Internet connection, but you can’t seem to access any web pages, it’s possible that you need to change the settings of your anti-virus software (if you have anti-virus software installed).

Telecommuter Tip: If you rely on cloud-based technologies for most of your work, when possible, sync your applications to your mobile phone or desktop so that you can keep working using mobile data or your local machine.

Related: 24 Tech Terms All Remote Jobseekers Should Know

2. Slow Computer Startup

If your computer turns on at a snail’s pace, you can help speed things up by telling your computer what programs it should automatically run whenever it starts.

Key Terms to Know

  • System Preferences (for Mac computers)
  • Task Manager (for Windows computers)

On Macs, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups. Click on your username, then click on the Login Items tab. Select the programs that you don’t need to run upon startup, then click the “ – ” button to remove the program from the list. Restart your computer to see if it makes a difference.

On Windows machines, there are several ways to disable startup programs. One simple way is to use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Delete and open the Task Manager. Then click the Startup tab and search for programs that are non-essential and have high startup impact. Be cautious, however. If you don’t recognize the name of a program, research it before disabling in case it’s essential for your computer’s functioning. When you’ve selected the programs you don’t need, click Disable. Restart your computer to see if it boots faster.

Telecommuter Tip: Backup and syncing programs, such as Backup and Sync from Google, Microsoft OneDrive, and iCloud, tend to have a high impact on startup. However, running those programs at startup is helpful so that you can sync documents and other files without having to remember to back up manually.

3. Slow Computer Performance

Increasing startup speed is helpful, but you also want to make sure your computer runs efficiently while you’re using it. After startup, if your machine tends to run slowly, there are some ways you can ramp things up.

Key Terms to Know

  • Hard drive
  • RAM
  • Task Manager (for Windows computers)
  • Activity Monitor (for Mac computers)
  • Operating system
  • Driver

As PC World recommends, try restarting your computer. Putting your computer to sleep isn’t the same thing as shutting down. Give your machine a fresh start to the day by manually shutting down and rebooting.

Check your available hard drive space. If you’ve just about maxed out your hard drive memory, your computer might run slow. Try deleting old, unnecessary data or moving large files that you don’t use on a daily basis to another drive (e.g., USB, external hard drive, or even the cloud).

Check for open windows and programs running the background. Close any programs that you don’t need and that take up a lot of computer memory. Go the Task Manager on Windows computers or Activity Monitor on Macs to see which programs take up the most memory. See if you can get by without having all those programs open at once. Also, check the background processes, but be careful of what you turn off. If you don’t recognize the name of a program or process, err on the side of keeping it. Research anything that seems suspicious before disabling it.

Check your Random Access Memory (RAM) capacity. If you have less than 2 gigabits (GB) of RAM, and if your computer can expand to more, consider upgrading to at least 2 GB.

Check for operating system and driver updates. It’s possible that you’re running on a version that is less efficient.

Telecommuter Tip: Internet browsers tend to take up a lot of computer memory. If you need to keep your browser open the whole time you’re working, you may want to upgrade your RAM. Though anti-virus software also takes up a lot of juice, you want to keep all security programs turned on so that you stay protected.

4. Malware Infection

If your computer is infected with a virus or other malware, here are some ways to mitigate the issue and protect your computer and information.

Key Terms to Know

  • Virus
  • Malware
  • Anti-virus software
  • Scan

The easiest thing to do is let a software program identify and remove the infection. Anti-virus software is designed to search for all files related to an infection and remove them without impairing your computer’s normal functioning. So, before you go around deleting and uninstalling suspicious files, run a scan to identify the issue.

Your anti-virus software should tell you what it found during the scan. Research the issues online and find troubleshooting steps from others who have recovered from the attack successfully.

If you think the malware attack was sent through your work email, a commonly used website, or a file you downloaded from a shared online resource, inform your information technology (IT) department and team members immediately. Tell them exactly what happened and the outcome of your anti-virus software scan. Hopefully, your warning will prevent coworkers from experiencing the same issue.

Telecommuter Tip: Always keep anti-virus or anti-malware software installed and running. Never open suspicious emails, and definitely don’t click on any links if you don’t recognize the sender. Only download software and other files from trusted sources. If an attachment or URL looks suspicious, don’t click on it.

Related: 11 Cybersecurity Tips for Telecommuters

5. Data Doesn’t Sync

What’s the use of having multiple devices if they don’t communicate with each other? Though data syncing occurs on the server-side of all your applications, there are a few things you can do to help expedite the process.

Key Terms to Know

  • Sync
  • Server
  • Operating system

First, check your Internet or data connection. Sometimes, a quick connectivity glitch can delay information updates.

Next, examine whether the software on your devices is up-to-date. The best way to ensure that all your operating systems and applications are current is to turn on the automatic update feature. However, to avoid excessive data charges for mobile devices, you may want to specify that automatic updates should only occur when you’re connected to WiFi on those devices.

If the syncing issue persists, check the settings on all your devices and the online applications to ensure that syncing is turned on and that the app recognizes all devices. When using work accounts, you might want to check with your employer to ensure you have the correct permissions to access and use applications on multiple devices.

Also, verify your password. If you recently updated your password using your laptop, you’ll need to log in to the application on all your other devices. Also, confirm that your username is correct.

If you’ve done everything within your power, but your data and devices still won’t sync, the application or server could be experiencing issues, and you may just have to wait a few minutes. If it’s a huge server issue, you’ll likely get an email notification from the company who developed the application with instructions and an estimated recovery timeframe or you can follow the developer’s social media accounts for updates.

The Virtual Vocations team uses Slack for our virtual communication within and across departments. On the rare occasion that Slack functionality experiences hiccups, we can easily check the Slack Status Twitter account for updates.

Telecommuter Tip: Though cloud technologies make backup and information retrieval a breeze, consider saving a local copy of supercritical files to avoid any syncing issues outside of your control.

Don’t Let Tech Troubles Get in the Way of Your Telecommuting Career

Unfortunately, technology is still a common fear among Americans, according to the Chapman University Survey of American Fears. However, if technology is the only thing standing between you and a telecommuting career, you’re in luck. You don’t need a computer science degree to join the virtual workspace, and you can fix a lot of everyday technology problems yourself. Have the confidence to tackle your tech woes and keep your mind focused on the reason you want to work from home: to achieve greater personal and professional flexibility.


Do you have your own solutions on how to troubleshoot telecommuting technology? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us about your strategies for simple fixes to help you return to productivity. We’d love to hear from you! 

Photo Credit: 1. iStock.com/Besjunior

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