Work Day Trip To Houston

It’s never a good sign when you come into work on a Monday morning and one of your coworkers tells you a site is down. In this case, a fire happened at one of Comcast’s switching locations and took down a bunch of their core networking equipment. This ultimately took down the Houston office’s internet.  We were told the site was probably going to be down for a few days. With Houston being one if our largest sites, we needed to get them back up with an alternative connection.

We have been working on putting a crash kit together for these specific situations. The crash kit has a router that runs on a cellular card and provides an internet connection through that card. We now had our first situation for an inaugural run to test the kit in real world conditions. We ordered a case that could easily survive dropping it from several stories up so we knew it would be safe during shipping. In this situation, we found it would be easier for me to hit the road, get everything up and working, and just come back.

After it was confirmed that everything was working, I hit the road. Traffic wasn’t bad so it took the standard time to get to Houston from Austin. I first set the crash kit up in the networking closet. The cell signal must not have been the best because it was slow as heck. I walked around with my phone, which was the same carrier as crash kit card. I found there were 2-3 bars with 4G LTE in the closet. I found an office that had a clear view of Downtown Houston. This office had 5 bars at 4G LTE.

I put the router on a desk that appeared to be used for storage. Yes that’s a keg in the corner. Working for the TABC, some people have interesting alcohol-related things to decorate their offices.

I ran the antenna to the window and put it on the floor.

After everything came up, we had speeds over 50 times faster than in the closet. Now everyone could actually work at a reasonable speed! It’s really amazing how much of a difference 2 more bars of reception can make. What is also crazy is when you are less than 5 miles from the Downtown area of the 4th biggest city in the United States and cell phone reception is less than stellar anywhere. You think in 2015, they would have worked most of the kinks out. It seems like there’s a lot of improvements still to be made and I definitely know that the second you get out of a city, the reception gets even worse in a lot of other areas. After everyone was confirmed working, I hit the road back for Austin. I ran into a few storms around Houston but made it to Austin by 7:30. Just in time to go home, relax a little, and get some sleep.

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