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    Why Vacation Rental Properties Need an Internet Reboot

    Recently, we surveyed technology buyers (including owners and managers of rental properties) to learn about their IT challenges and why they buy certain products. Some respondents owned or managed Airbnb rentals; others were simply renting their second home for extra income. Recurring issues respondents face are power interruptions and glitchy routers, which break Wi-Fi connections to devices like smart thermostats, smart TVs, and security cameras at their properties. When utilities do restore power, respondents noted their router often fails to bring devices back online due to the length of the outage.

    Some property managers and owners rely on smart thermostats to regulate the temperature in their property from afar, especially during windows when the property goes unrented. When the power goes out, faraway owners often call on someone near the property to reconnect smart devices that don’t come back online when utilities restore power. Imagine an outage in winter:  A smart thermostat fails to reset, and water in the home’s pipes freezes and bursts a line.

    Another respondent (who lives hundreds of miles from his property) said when guests at his property complained that the home’s internet service went down, he had to walk the not-so-happy guests through rebooting the router. Having the Wi-Fi slow to a crawl or stop working frustrates renters and potentially leads to bad reviews online.

    Devices mainly go offline for two reasons. There’s a power outage, which none of us can control, or a malfunctioning router. A natural-gas powered backup generator can help with power outages.

    But let’s look at routers, which are the linchpin for Wi-Fi and smart devices. If your home’s Wi-Fi has gone down and you called your internet service provider for help, they likely said unplug your router, wait, and turn it back on. Problem solved. But why?

    A Simple Look at Routers

    Routers range from the low-end, ISP-provided versions to high-grade units. They often quit working because they’re overwhelmed by the amount of data they store to keep devices online. The typical wireless router has approximately one gigabyte of memory, so the proliferation of laptops, smartphones, smart TVs, and tablets that connect to a rental property’s Wi-Fi during a guest’s stay can quickly cause a router to drop connections to devices. The router has a limited number of IP addresses it gives out and keeps track of for a constantly changing set of devices. Rebooting the router clears its memory and syncs it with the devices it’s tracking. A reboot also remedies broken links occurring after an outage. Rebooting does the most good, though, when done regularly.

    4 Strategies for Rebooting When You’re Not On-Site to Do It

    1. Buy a simple, 24-hour, plug-in mechanical timer you’d use for turning on and off Christmas tree lights. Plug your router into the timer and set it to turn off once per day. Ideally, set it to go off and on around 4 a.m., when guests are asleep. This fix comes with some drawbacks, though, because you can’t monitor whether it’s working.
    2. Purchase one of the many devices on the market known as an internet rebooter. An internet rebooter comes in various levels of quality and reliability. Some higher-grade, UL-certified units allow users to set and change reboot schedules using a mobile app. The handiest of the devices regularly reboots the property’s router and automatically monitors the internet connection. If a guest complains about Wi-Fi speed or lack of Wi-Fi, a property owner or manager can remotely reboot via a mobile app.
    3. If an owner or their property manager have some electrical know-how, then they could wire an electrical outlet with a relay, plug the router into this socket, and achieve a periodic reboot that way.
    4. Buy a professional-grade router, which is less likely to experience memory leaks in its application code. But even the operating system, processor, and memory in these routers can get hung up when there’s a change in the temporary IP address the ISP assigns devices linked to the property’s Wi-Fi.

    An internet reboot will make renting your properties a smoother experience. But also consider the security benefits of rebooting. Namely, the FBI advises regularly rebooting routers to disrupt malware and prevent criminals from compromising these devices to collect data and exploit users. Giving your rental an internet reboot helps make a visitor’s stay better, while protecting your property and guests.

    Steve Sanders is a lead developer overseeing applications and cloud development for Grid Connect Inc., a manufacturer of embedded and networking technology.

    Jonathan Witthoeft is a software engineer for Grid Connect where he develops and analyzes IoT technology and cloud applications.

    Readers with questions can contact Steve at steves@gridconnect.com and Jonathan at jonw@gridconnect.com.

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