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Zen Internet tech support zeroes in on router fail

Technical boffins at Zen Internet have urged internet users to disable their router’s ‘idle time-out’ functions to improve their broadband experience.

Writing on the firm’s blog, Phil Long, the performance and process improvement manager for the operations team at Zen Internet, said many routers use the setting ‘idle time-out’ or ‘dial-on-demand’ to disconnect when users aren’t on the internet and reconnect when they start using it again.

Long argues that given broadband was designed to be ‘always-on’ and not charged by the minute, this setting has little benefit – but some routers use it by default. 

Zen Internet tech support zeroes in on router fail
Sleepy routers will disguise broadband disconnection patterns

“It’s therefore not surprising that a significant number of our customers have this setting enabled,” he said, and having the setting enabled would increase the chance of a connection failing.

“Sometimes faults on Zen or BT’s networks can stop your router establishing a connection, but routers that are already connected are not affected.”

Long added these faults are far more likely to affect a customer if their broadband router is only set to connect when you use the internet.

The enabled setting will also mean users would be more likely to encounter the BT holding page than the website they were trying to access, and could experience a sluggish response when they start using the internet.

Finally, having the option enabled makes it harder to find the cause of genuine connection problems, because dial on-demand hides patterns in disconnections which engineers can examine.

“We would need to disable the “dial-on-demand” setting and wait several days to establish any pattern to the disconnections, so it will take us longer to fix the problem,” he said.

As every router is different, Long recommends checking the manual for a way to turn off the feature, or searching for a guide on the web. There’s usually a menu option to disable it, or entering a time-out period of 0 (zero) seconds will turn it off.

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