Coronavirus: Chorus boss explains why you're having trouble logging into your work computer

If you've been having trouble getting connected to your work computer systems the past few days, you're not alone.

Employees at Chorus - which runs most of the country's fibre and broadband network - have been struggling to get online too.

"Even we had issues over the first few days," chief executive JB Rousselot told The AM Show on Friday. 

But it's not because the network can't handle it. Thursday's daytime peak was 1.99 terabits per second - that's 250GB, the equivalent of downloading hit game Grand Theft Auto V 231 times every minute.

"It's almost a doubling of our normal daytime traffic," said Rousselot. "Doubling of daytime traffic is fine for the network because it's still well below what we'd experience in a peak evening time."

The reason is obvious. Much of the country's workforce - the Newshub digital team included - are now working from home, with the country at pandemic alert level 4. COVID-19 hasn't killed any Kiwis yet but has been responsible for more than 23,000 deaths worldwide. 

"People are at home, they're doing emails, they're sharing files, but most importantly they're using applications such as Skype or Zoom to do video streaming," said Rousselot.

"The evening peak has also increased. It's been up by about 25 percent. It was at about 2.8 terabits per second - a huge amount of data. More people are at home because they can't be outside, so they're doing more video streaming - but also it would seem they're using the same video conferencing platforms to keep in touch with family and friends."

While third-party tools like Zoom and Skype are designed to handle people logging in from anywhere and everywhere, many workplaces have internal systems which aren't. This is why, Rousselot says, people have had trouble logging in from home and IT staff - again, including those at Newshub - have been run off their feet trying to get things working. 

"Typically businesses have wide area networks that are protected. Those are configured typically to work from big office location to big office location - now they have to work from millions of home to millions of homes. So the network itself is fine, but it's the way we've configured it that needs to be adjusted. 

"We've worked overnight with all of the other bits of the network - networks are a complex beast with many interconnected pieces. I think over the next few days you'll see [the number of issues] going down... as we reconfigure the network." 

Jacinda Ardern talks about COVID-19.
Jacinda Ardern talks about COVID-19. Photo credit: Getty

The biggest spike recorded during the day comes when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does her daily media conference, talking about the latest developments in the fight against COVID-19 - even though her appearances are also broadcast on free-to-air TV.

"People are really curious to see what the Government has to say, and they do that using online platforms," says Rousselot. 

Chorus still has technicians working in the field to help out those whose internet connection isn't up to snuff.

"If your connection is not allowing you to do those essential services - such as your kid going to school online now - we're still working with retail broadband providers and ourselves to go and fix connections or do new connections. 

"We still have resources in the field to do that. It might take us a little bit longer... because we are adjusting our off-field work to those new level 4 restrictions." 

Other Chorus staff are working at home, just as you probably are. 

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