Are Smart Homes Reliable? Tips to Minimize Downtime
In an ever-changing world, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with a plethora of tech to charge, maintain and protect. Maybe the idea of snagging a smart home attracts you but you’ve heard horror stories about devices breaking down or security vulnerabilities. It’s a valid concern — but just like you wouldn’t wait for your engine to blow up before replacing your oil, planning goes a long way to ensure your smart home has a healthier, safer life.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the smart home, and certainly a trademark of any reputable custom integrator is a serviceable installation. A centralized design with a dedicated equipment room, proper ventilation and structural wires neatly dressed and clearly labeled is an investment that will not only save you thousands over the long run, but also significantly reduce downtime and headaches that come with owning a system.
Like any modern tech, smart homes are susceptible to failure and need to be power cycled every now and then to run efficiently. One of our favorite products to tackle this issue is an IP-controlled Power Distribution Unit (PDU), like a Wattbox, which delivers clean power to all of your equipment. Not only does it protect your smart home against power surges, but it can schedule system reboots when everyone is asleep or fix an issue with the tap of a button, eliminating costly and inconvenient service calls.
Network Planning and Design
Not the most exciting and very easy to overlook in the midst of building a smart home with the vast array of wireless devices in the market. However, it’s just as important as your heart is to your body to function.
There’s enough content to write a book, but some of the best practices we recommend is to wire everything that can be wired. Wireless tech is convenient at the cost of increased vulnerability, interference from your neighbors or other frequencies such as Zigbee or Z-wave, and most noticeably — a slower connection. It’s also a good idea to include your network during the rough-in, also known as “pre-wire” phase of construction to significantly save on cost and ensure your home is properly covered such that it will give you the speed needed where you’ll use Wi-Fi and physically protect you from threats such as “drive-by” hackers. Another recommendation is to plan for future expansion, and include redundancy if the budget allows for high availability.
Not every piece of hardware is created equal. In electronics, there is a clear distinction between what is commonly referred to as consumer-grade hardware and professional-grade. It’s important to look at the specifications of equipment you buy before installing it in your home. Simply put, consumer-grade gear is designed to keep manufacturing costs down as much as possible, while professional-grade gear tends to be more rugged and it’s designed to be use for extended periods of time, will offer a very competitive warranty and it’s usually not available for purchase on the retail space since setup will require certified technicians.
Much like the difference between having a steak vs a hot dog for dinner! — Ralph Thomas
Follow Best Security Practices
Another essential component to a reliable smart home is security. While that begins during design and deployment, it’s a constant process that is not just applicable to smart homes, but to anything pertaining our online identity.
“Security is a journey, not a destination”
On that note, some recommended practices include limiting access both to our home network and control system. You can easily manage access assigning different user credentials, user roles and creating a guest network. Make sure that the systems you purchase not only have these features, but that you are familiar using them. Changing passwords periodically and avoiding default passwords is always a good practice as well.
Protecting your home network with a reliable firewall, IDS. Our favorite threat manager, GuardDog has won multiple awards by the Department of Homeland Security and it’s specifically designed to guard your IoT devices. Network security is just as important as physically locking your equipment rack. Think of it like and alarm system or GPS tracker for your car, which provides additional security to a locked car.
Smart homes can absolutely be reliable through proper planning, design and budgeting. When working with a professional, beware of companies willing to cut corners on the information provided above; it’s a recipe for frustration and piling maintenance costs over time. Whether you’re building the home of your dreams, or looking for a way to improve your current home system, using this list will prevent common oversights that lead to unreliable systems.