I’d like to share a story about a solution I recently came up with for a client.

I recently heard that one of my clients, a retail store, had been with an internet connection for several days. This not only made it impossible to run credit cards through their point of sale registers, but impacted their online inventory system. I spoke with the owner and asked why he hadn’t contacted me and he said “The problem is with my internet provider, not anything that you’ve done.” I replied “Yes, but do you want me to fix it?” His response – “YES!”

My challenge was to somehow get a new source of internet into their hardwired network. I have a wireless hotspot that I use for emergencies, so that would be the internet source- but I couldn’t plug it in to the network. I have a small wireless router that I use for all sorts of “utilty” tasks when working on my clients’ networks. I could plug that in to the store’s network, but I’d need to connect it to the internet. I normally would join the wifi from the router to another wifi signal (like from the hotspot) but there was a catch…

The hotspot makes you go to a sign-in page when you connect to it, and the router can’t do that. So I needed another way to connect the two devices. Then it dawned on me- the router can get its internet connection from its USB port. This is usually a USB hotspot “stick”, but it can also work with a phone that allows USB tethering.

I always keep my old mobile phone when I buy a new one in case of loss or damage. So I got out my old Nexus 6, turned it on and enabled USB tethering. I connected the Nexus to the hotspot’s wifi, plugged a USB cable between the phone and the router, and finally plugged the router’s ethernet into my computer. Hey presto, my computer had an internet connection!

I gathered up all the bits and went to the store. Five minutes later, they were back online and ringing sales as usual. Here’s what all this looked like:

Wireless network diagram

This system worked until internet service was restored almost two days later. We’re now discussing plans for a fallback internet connection- if the internet goes out again the store will automatically switch to a cellular modem.

I’m sharing this story because it exemplifies the “creative technical solutions” that are at the core of what I do. From unconventional solutions like this to approaching system design in uncommon ways, my goal is to find the best solution for the situation. If you have a technical issue that you don’t know how to solve, get in touch– even if you don’t think it’s something that an IT support company would handle!