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Zen Internet Warns Consumers to Disable Idle Time-Out on Broadband Routers

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 (1:25 am) - Score 2,211
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Rochdale-based ISP Zen Internet has spent time analysing common broadband patterns and discovered that a “significant number” of their broadband users appear to be suffering a performance loss, especially those on 8Mbps ADSL and 20-24Mbps ADSL2+ lines, because their routers unwittingly enabling the “idle time-out” (aka – “dial-on-demand“) setting.

As regular readers will know, most ADSL lines use a dynamic profile system that adjusts the performance of your connection based on the quality of the line being used, which helps to keep the service stable but can also drop your speed when a lot of disconnections are seen. In general, fixed broadband is intended to be an “always-on” service.

Sadly such systems struggle to tell the difference between a disconnection caused by a fault and one that occurs when the user simply powers on and off their router, which is one of the reasons why we always advise to keep the router switched on (switching off your router once a day isn’t too bad but more than that could cause problems).

But a recent study conducted by Zen has revealed that many of their customers are still using routers which enable the “idle time-out” setting by default, which drops the DSL link when the connection becomes inactive (e.g. after you’ve stopped using the computer or tablet for X amount of time etc.).

Obviously settings like this are best left disabled because they can affect the performance of your line and make it much harder for the ISP to diagnose other connection problems that might be occurring. Check out the image below as an example of a connection that has enabled “dial-on-demand“, thus producing a lot of erratic connectivity (yellow bands illustrate a period where the connection is dropped).

Suffice to say that a more normal / stable broadband line should be dominated by the green colours and not the yellow, which clearly isn’t the case above where yellow is everywhere. The good news is that we’ve yet to see any of the pre-configured routers supplied by big broadband ISPs do this, so if you have one of those then you’re probably fine (this includes the Zen supplied Technicolor kit that is also safe).

In fact we’ve yet to come across any router ourselves that enables this feature by default because most manufacturers are wise to the dangers, although Zen suggests that some routers do still enable it and indeed it could also be enabled by accident. Most people don’t know the detail of how DSL lines work and without that knowledge such a setting may even seem sensible.

As usual it’s better to be safe than sorry, so give your router’s broadband connection settings a check over to make sure that it’s not doing anything silly.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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