Understanding Internet (Ethernet and WiFi) Requirements for On-Site Success
On-site events can be stressful, especially more so when something isn't working right. Despite PheedLoop's OnSight systems being extremely easy to use and set up, they depend on some basics like power and internet to work correctly. Surprisingly, these two seemingly basic requirements often cause the most trouble, and are completely unrelated to the OnSight system itself but are a pre-requisite before the benefits start to kick-in. In this article, we're going to focus on troubleshooting possible internet issues on-site. It's vital that you work closely with your on-site staff member from PheedLoop (optional, but recommended) as they will be able to take care of everything for you, and your venue manager as they are often the ones who are needed to modify or repair their networks.
Basic On-Site Internet Requirements
Let's start with the basics. You'll need some source for an internet connection on-site at your event, and ideally you have a backup as well just in case. The two options are to rely on the venue's internet connection, or bring your own. Bringing your own is becoming increasingly cheaper and more accessible, comprising of any mobile hotspot device (ensure the device has an ethernet output for maximum compatibility).
Most events power their on-site set up with a dedicated ethernet line from the venue. This provides the comfort and reliability of a high speed dedicated connection. These services tend to be pricey, so definitely inquire with your venue (and try to negotiate!). It's critical that your venue's internet connection is 100% clean. This means it should have no restrictions whatsoever, in particular no login page (because the printer cannot render a login page), no password, no MAC or IP address filtering, no firewall, etc. The on-site printers require a direct and unrestricted connection to the internet. Most venues deal with this sort of requirement all the time, so it should be familiar to them.
Mobile hotspots are an incredibly reliable and cost effective solution, at the very least as a secondary backup but possibly even as a primary (in case there's an issue, you can typically invest in internet from the venue on the spot). These usually cost no more than $30-50 per month (like a regular phone plan, and you don't have to keep them active year round if you don't need them), are portable, and consist of a SIM card from your carrier (e.g. AT&T, Rogers, Verizon, Bell, etc.) and the hotspot device itself. The hotspot device should be one that has an ethernet out port, so that you can connect the hotspot to a router and multiple the number of connections as the on-site systems are best connected via a wired ethernet connection.
If you would like us to include a hotspot, SIM card, and router in your OnSight kit, let us know and we can send this to you (additional cost).
Speeds and Bandwidth
The printers and tablets use a very minimal amount of data, so speed or bandwidth aren't really too important. With that said, we recommend at least a 5 Mbps connection just to be safe. What's far more important is the reliability of the network itself, as network dropouts can become very inconvenient. This is why we recommend wired connections. Both a dedicated wired connection and a mobile hotspot (with at least 3 bars of signal strength) are quite reliable.
My Printer is Not Online - Help!
It's terrifying to have everything set up but your printer is not showing up as "Online" in your dashboard Rest assured, though, there's likely a simple solution. The following is a collection of tips, ideas, and troubleshooting steps that may help you get up and running quickly.
Keep in mind that even if your printer is showing an IP address on its screen, it does not mean it's connected to the internet as that IP address is local to the network the printer is on.
Check All Cables - An obvious one, but before doing anything complex, it's best to check the simple stuff. Ensure you have power and ethernet hooked up to the printer, and that the ethernet cable is connected on the other end to a live internet source.
Restart the Printer - Simply flick the printer off, wait 10 seconds, and turn it back on. Give it up to a minute after turning on for things to connect.
Confirm Printer ID - In the PheedLoop dashboard, under Experiences > On-Site > Badge Printers is where you enter in the ID for your printers (usually starting with a "40J ..."). Ensure you have this 100% correct by checking the underside of the printer. Capitalization matters. If you adjusted the printer ID, refresh your dashboard page to see if the printer now shows up as online.
Confirm Printer is Programmed - If you received your printers from PheedLoop, you can skip this step as we send them pre-programmed (you can re-program them in this case only as a last resort). If you acquired the printers yourself, you may have forgotten to or incorrectly programmed them to point to our servers. Ensure you've followed the instructions here carefully.
Check the Internet Connection on Another Device - Plug the ethernet cable currently in the printer into another device, like a laptop. Ensure that you are able to access the internet. Also ensure that you are truly connected to the internet via ethernet, as sometimes if the ethernet connection is not working, your computer will automatically fallback on WiFi and you may think the ethernet system is up and running but you may just be on WiFi. You can also visit https://speedtest.net to confirm that the quality of the internet connection is good. Look for at least 5 Mbps consistently (run a few tests if you need to, see the animation below showing the straight line indicating a steady connection).
Confirm There Are No Internet Restrictions - If you are using the venue's internet, this is by far the most common reason that the connection may not be working. Venues have a tendency of telling you the internet line is clean and working, but often it isn't the case. Triple check that there are no login pages, IP address filters, MAC address filters, firewalls, or anything else getting in the way.
Test a Backup Printer - If you have another printer, test it out with the same setup. If it connects and you see it online in your PheedLoop dashboard, then the good news is that you're pretty close to figuring out the issue. The issue is either a genuine restriction on the internet connection and for some reason that one printer may be blocked, but the other possibility is that the printer is malfunctioning and needs to be re-programmed or reset. The former is most likely, and in the case of the latter, follow the steps here to re-program your printer (should take 10-15 minutes). If the backup printer also does not connect, you're almost certainly looking at some restriction on the internet/network itself from the venue.
Try a Backup Internet Source - If you decided to acquire a mobile hotspot system from us or yourself, give it a shot. Given the most common issue is the venue's internet connection being restricted, this is likely to work right away.