CR's Guide to Getting Better Internet Without Busting Your Budget | Shield Insurance Agency Blog

CR’s Guide to Getting Better Internet Without Busting Your Budget

How to solve WiFi problems and trim your monthly bill. Plus, what CR is doing to get everyone faster, cheaper broadband.

By Consumer ReportsJuly 13, 2021

Over the past 18 months, our home internet connections have helped us reach family, friends, and colleagues. They’ve been both practical tools and a needed source of entertainment during a difficult time.

That may be why 76 percent of Americans agree that internet service is as important as electricity or water, according to a February nationally representative Consumer Reports survey of 2,514 U.S. adults (PDF).

But using the internet at home can be frustrating, too, as many people confront dropped video-calls and sputtering movies—along with confusing bills and poor customer service. The good news is that some broadband problems are easy to fix. The following information can help you do that and maybe even help you save a bit of money.

To learn more about the issues that affect internet customers, Consumer Reports is launching a project called Broadband Together along with several other nonprofit organizations to collect and analyze tens of thousands of internet bills. You can read more about the project, and then consider joining the effort by taking an internet speed test, sharing a bill, and providing us with some basic information. 

The information we gather will help us learn how much people are paying in neighborhoods across the country, whether they’re getting what they were promised, and whether prices are fair.

If the internet is glitchy in your home, the first step toward a solution is to pinpoint the problem. And it helps to understand how online material—be it a Netflix show, Zoom call, or social media post—gets to you.

As you can see in the illustration below, movies, email, and other data are funneled by internet service providers (ISPs) through a series of cables and wires to homes with wired service. 

If something’s not working, the problem could lie outside your home and may require a call to the company to fix. Or the trouble could be with your home WiFi network, which distributes information wirelessly to your computers, TVs, and other devices.

Which is it? To figure that out, an easy first step is to test your internet speed.

How to Test Your Speed For Better Internet

It’s useful to know how fast data moves into and out of your home. To find out, you can check your speed at Measurement Lab or Speedtest. With a click or two, you’ll learn your download speed (how fast data such as a movie streams into your home), and your upload speed (how fast data like your end of a Zoom call streams out). The numbers, measured in megabits per second (Mbps), will vary a bit each time. If possible, first run a test with a computer that’s physically plugged into your router using an Ethernet cord. The results may vary a bit each time you run the test. But if the speeds are consistently much slower than the maximum speeds promoted by the ISP for your plan, call the company. Then do the same test wirelessly (over WiFi) throughout the house. If it’s only the WiFi speeds that are slow, focus on your router to find a solution. 

Is Your Service Level Fast Enough?
ISPs generally offer several plans, each promising a different range of speeds—the faster the connection, the more you pay. So which plan is right for you?

It depends on how many people you have at home and what they do online. You need only around 1 Mbps to listen to a Spotify song and 4 Mbps for a Zoom call—but 25 Mbps to watch a 4K movie on Netflix.

The numbers are cumulative. If two TVs are streaming 4K movies at the same time, that’s 50 Mbps.

Every ISP has its own tiers, but you can use the speed ranges below to see where you fit in. Many people may pay for more speed than they really need.

Up to 100 Mbps
This is plenty for two or three people with routine needs. That includes Zoom calls, high-definition movie viewing, and some online game play.

100 to 300 Mbps
These speeds should accommodate even a data-hogging family that plays several 4K movies and taxing online games all at the same time.

300-Plus Mbps
Few households need more than 300 Mbps. If you have internet problems, the solution is probably not to slap down the plastic for your ISP’s priciest superfast service.

Make Your WiFi Better

Let’s say you’ve signed up for the right internet service tier, and your speed testing confirms that your ISP truly is delivering the speeds it has promised. If your internet service is still acting finicky, the problem very likely lies with your WiFi network. You can probably fix things by fiddling with the equipment in your home. Below, CR has four expert tips to help, starting with the simplest and cheapest. And we have more detailed WiFi advice, as well. 

1. Try Moving Your Router
Tempting though it may be to banish your router from public view, exiling it to a cabinet or the outskirts of your home can hinder performance. That forces the WiFi signal to pass through more walls and other barriers, and to cover longer distances, to reach every corner of the house.

Place the router out in the open, away from corners, and high in the room. (The signal tends to be stronger below the router than above it.) Also, locate the router as close as possible to the middle of your home. You may be able to move it yourself, or you might need some help from your ISP or a handy friend.

2. Use an Ethernet Cord
If you’ve ever had a movie night derailed by sputtering WiFi, you know the feeling (major letdown). Need a more stable signal? A $10 or $20 Ethernet cable can save the day, linking a TV, streaming video box, or video game console directly to your router.

3. Use an Inexpensive WiFi Extender
Need to push a WiFi signal a little deeper into your home? A $30 palm-sized WiFi range extender could be the answer. Plug it into an outlet midway between your router and, say, the comfy reading chair in your bedroom, and it stretches the signal. There’s a catch, however: That extended signal can be only half as fast as the rest of your WiFi network, making this a great fix for emails, but maybe not movies.

4. If Needed, Invest in a Mesh Router
If you’re looking to improve WiFi coverage throughout your home, a mesh router system may be the way to go. Unlike a traditional router, which toils away on its own, a mesh router uses multiple units—a hub and one or two satellites—that work together to spread the WiFi network from one end of your abode to the other. If there’s a dead zone in the den, you can move the satellites around to eliminate it. You can also add satellites to broaden the network’s reach. Mesh routers used to cost up to $500, but prices have fallen in the past 15 months. You can now find highly rated mesh routers for less than $200.

Avoid Overpaying

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Safeco Off-road ATVs: Coverage for your off-road ATV Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Off-road ATVs: Coverage for your off-road ATV

Safeco® Off-road ATVs: Coverage for your off-road ATV

Do you have an off road vehicle? Safeco will insure all-terrain vehicles with four or six wheels, a wide variety of utility-terrain vehicles (UTV), side-by-sides, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, golf carts, and other select off-road vehicles. Talk with a Safeco agent to get details about all the vehicles types we cover. Connect with your Safeco independent agent today to get the details and determine the best coverage options for your off-road vehicle: http://spr.ly/6053yTUUv Disclaimer: Subject to policy terms, conditions, and limitations. Discounts and savings available where state laws and regulations allow and may vary by state. State insurance requirements apply. Insurance offered by Safeco Insurance Company of America and affiliates, Boston, MA.

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Set sail with peace of mind | Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Set sail with peace of mind

Safeco® Captain’s Package Coverage: Set sail with peace of mind

Four reasons you can set sail with peace of mind when you enroll in the Safeco Captain’s Package. One New Boat Price Protection: in the event of a total loss, replaces boats/watercrafts less than two years old with a new boat/watercraft. Two Roadside Assistance: covers the boat/watercraft, trailer, and the car or truck you tow it with. Three Personal Effects Protection: increased protection limits to your base coverage. Four Emergency Assistance: Increases this coverage to $1,000. Connect with your Safeco independent agent today to find out more: http://spr.ly/6051yTUv3 Disclaimer: Subject to policy terms, conditions, and limitations. Discounts and savings available where state laws and regulations allow and may vary by state. State insurance requirements apply. Insurance offered by Safeco Insurance Company of America and affiliates, Boston, MA.

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Mold: a silent but rapidly growing environmental exposure | Shield Agency Blog

Mold: a silent but rapidly growing environmental exposure

At first glance, mold may seem unassuming but for commercial property owners, mold can be a highly problematic hazard that presents significant environmental risk.

Although frequently associated with the aftermath of natural disasters, mold is much more likely to result from routine maintenance issues such as leaky pipes or HVAC malfunctions. Taking a proactive approach to address mold is critical to help reduce the risk of property damage, guard against personal health effects, and avoid potentially costly future claims.

The health risks of mold

Concern about indoor exposure to mold has been increasing as the general public becomes aware of health risks and symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, potential adverse health risks can include a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing or wheezing, burning eyes, or skin rash–with increased concerns for those with asthma or immuno-compromised individuals. Given these potential issues, commercial owners should prioritize mold as part of risk-management planning.

Industry-specific factors driving mold claims

While any business can be at risk for mold, certain sectors have experienced a significant uptick in the frequency and severity of costly environmental claims due to mold and indoor air quality issues. Here’s a look at the factors driving this trend in these sectors.

Heat and humidity create fertile breeding grounds for mold in schools.

Elementary and high schools (K-12) are vulnerable to mold growth for several reasons, including:

  • increased moisture due to painting or carpet cleaning
  • high humidity with reduced air conditioning or outdated heating systems
  • Especially during the summer, a lack of ventilation combined with heat and humidity creates a perfect mold incubator.  

Without regular maintenance, a school can rapidly experience significant mold growth. To mitigate the risk of mold outbreaks, schools should perform regularly scheduled inspections for signs of mold, moisture, and leaks, including during long breaks. The Environmental Protection Agency’s  Mold in Schools fact sheet provides additional guidance on how schools can mitigate this risk.

Renovations can lead to contamination surprises for hospitals and hotels.

Deferred maintenance can lead to delayed problems for healthcare and hospitality sectors, especially when it comes to larger projects such as roof or room renovations:

  • As a roof comes closer to the end of its useful life, the likelihood of leaking increases exponentially, as does the risk of mold growth.
  • Mold thrives where there is plenty of organic material, such as wood, paper, paint, drywall, and insulation—frequently uncovered behind walls, under carpet and ceiling tiles, and surrounding corroded pipes during routine maintenance or renovation projects.

Not having a plan to address this risk can be very costly. In addition to the costs to address structural damage, hospitals and hotels may also experience lost revenue if facilities need to cease operations or are held liable for mold-related exposures of individuals.

Putting risk mitigation plans to work

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Pandemic’s Bolstered Claims Technology Shield Insurance Blog

Pandemic’s Bolstered Claims Technology

Workers Expect Savvy Claims Technology: Here’s How the Pandemic’s Bolstered Claims Technology During Uncertain Times

The COVID-19 pandemic sped up the adoption of claims technology, but many tools were already in place and poised for growth.

Even apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a significant year. According to the NOAA, 22 separate weather events including severe storms, wildfires, and cyclones totaled $95 billion in damages.

While many types of insurance bear the brunt of these disasters, workers’ compensation carriers, tasked with critical care needs that affect workers and their families, need special strategies to deliver care when catastrophe strikes.

For many organizations, these strategies utilize technology, built-in redundancies and, stepped-up conveniences like a direct deposit to ensure continuity of care, no matter the weather.

“We have to be ready for it all — hurricanes, floods, fires,” said Mark Bilger, CIO of One Call.

“In general, disaster recovery and business continuity are a staple of well-run IT management for any organization. Specifically, in claims and insurance, it’s heightened because of the critical care for injured workers.”

Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, workers’ comp claims teams were challenged with the immediate expansion of remote work, resulting in necessary changes that are likely to endure even after the pandemic concludes.

“Before work from home, One Call had a few concentrated contact centers,” Bilger said.

“After work from home, we look a lot more like the internet. We’re dispersed and we had to make major upgrades to our virtual private network, essentially 10-fold. We went from 1 gigabit to 10-gigabit capacity. We strengthened our endpoint protections and it went from firewalls in our locations to everybody’s home becoming the One Call network.”

This growth in gigabit capacity is not isolated to the workers’ comp industry; reports indicate that pandemic-related growth has resulted in an estimated global wireless gigabit market size of $19 million in 2021 and is projected to reach $70 million by 2026.

In tandem with the global wireless market, gigabit size is the growth of cloud computing. Gartner forecasted 18.4% growth in a 2020 report to a total of $304.9 billion, noting that “the proportion of IT spending that is shifting to the cloud will accelerate in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, with cloud projected to make up 14.2% of the total global enterprise IT spending market in 2024, up from 9.1% in 2020.”

Workers Expect Claims Tech

Expectations have been set by regulation and digitization in the 21st Century that even in the wake of a natural disaster, services will continue.

“One of the technology solutions that we have had for a few years but that we pushed during COVID and any other type of catastrophic event is our claimant app, MyCare,” said Michael Jamason, SVP, business operations at CorVel.

“It gives the injured worker the ability to manage their pharmacy information, phone numbers for points of contact regarding their claim, information about payments being made to their accounts, and they can even establish their direct deposit in the app.”

Pharmacy information is especially important during disaster when medications are destroyed due to property damage or lost in an evacuation.

“We were able to utilize our partnership with our PBM to allow people to get early refills, and with mail order, we were able to even change the amounts of medication given,” said Melissa Burke, head of managed care and clinical, AmTrust.

“We expanded into other needs like telemedicine, ensuring that we have different types of providers available. We were able to expand that and ensure access in all of our states where allowed by regulatory governance, including digital doctor networks. Something important there too is transitioning injured employees. Typically a telehealth solution would be either on the frontend or the backend of a claim. We wanted to make sure that we could go back and forth depending on the state of the catastrophe,” Burke added.

Indeed, telemedicine expansion is at the forefront of many workers’ comp claims organizations’ radar. According to Mitchell’s “The Future of Technology in Work Comp 2020” industry survey, “many respondents believe that telemedicine will have the biggest impact on the industry within the next five years (32%), followed closely by artificial intelligence (30%) and predictive analytics (20%).”

The survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, which likely would have boosted telemedicine’s impact on the results due to significant expansions.

For many industry leaders though, the specific technological solution is not as significant as the strategy behind the solutions. “We have to ensure continuity of care and benefits,” said Michele Tucker, CorVel’s VP of EC operations.

“Any interruption — whether it’s a natural disaster or anything else — impacts many lives and families. We’ve been doing some regular testing with payments and system recovery so redundancy is set up, and if we have an office impacted, our system allows for immediate replication and the pickup of services by another office.”

Growth Brings Security Risks

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Stop by the Farmers Market in Hudsonville!

TODAY June 2, 2021 9am to 1pm

at the Terra Square

Stop by to meet Joe, Sean and his wife Kat, and register to win a robot vacuum or local gift cards!!

All the details can be found at the Chamber website be sure to check it out and visit the market!


TERRA SQUARE FARMERS MARKET Shield Insurance Agency

The home of Hudsonville’s Farmers Market.
Hudsonville farmers are passionate about bringing the community together over farm fresh produce they have been growing for generations. The Terra Square Farmer’s Market will be a place where we inspire healthy, full, and abundant living. Growing together, food and community.

Click here to visit the web site for all the detais !

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Shield Insurance Nominated for Business Excellence Award

Shield Insurance Nominated for Business Excellence Award

Shield Insurance Nominated for Business Excellence Award by Hudsonville Chamber of Commerce

Big News from the Hudsonville Chamber of Commerce!

It’s Awards Season!


The Chamber is SO excited to be hosting the Chamber Awards once again this year!

Here are our nominees for the 2021 Awards!

::::: drumroll :::::

Business Excellence Award

  • Hudsonville Physical Therapy
  • Advent Physical Therapy
  • Shield Insurance Agency

Leadership Award

  • Dr. Therese House-Vereeke
  • Patrick Waterman
  • Mary Jane Schreur

Spark Award

  • Hand 2 Hand Ministries
  • Meijer
  • Joy 99

The winners of the Awards will be announced at our official Awards Ceremony MEAL. June 17th at noon at the Pinnacle Center.

Make sure to get registered, we hope to see you there!

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Michigan Tornado Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Michigan Tornado: Be Prepared

Michigan Tornado

On average Michigan has 15 tornadoes per year. Tornadoes are known to develop rapidly, with little advanced warning. The average lead time for a Michigan tornado warning is 10 to 15 minutes and winds can reach over 200 mph, which is why Michigan residents are encouraged to prepare and make a plan before a tornado strikes.

Each year during Severe Weather Awareness Week, a statewide tornado drill is held so you can practice your plan.

BE PREPARED:

Terms:

Michigan Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. When there is a Watch, move near enough to a shelter or sturdy building to be able to get inside quickly if there is a Warning or if you see signs of a tornado approaching. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Michigan Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Supercell: A system producing severe thunderstorms, featuring rotating winds sustained by a prolonged updraft that may result in hail or tornadoes.

Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale: Rates the strength of tornadoes in the United States and Canada. There are six categories for the EF scale and are in order of increasing intensity. *It is based on wind estimates of a 3-second gust.*

  • EF0: Tornadoes with an estimated wind speed of 65-85 mph and leads to light damage.
  • EF1: Estimated wind speed of 86-110 mph with the potential of moderate damage.
  • EF2: Estimated wind speeds of 111-135 mph with significant damage potential.
  • EF3: Estimated wind speeds of 136-165 mph with severe damage potential.
  • EF4: Estimated wind speeds of 166-200 mph with devastating damage potential.
  • EF5: Estimated wind speeds of over 200 mph with incredible damage potential.

Before a Michigan Tornado:

  • Identify safe rooms built to FEMA criteria or ICC500 storm shelters or other potential protective locations in sturdy buildings near your home, work, and other locations you frequent so you have a plan for where you will go quickly for safety when there is a Warning or an approaching tornado.
  • For schools, malls, and other buildings with long-span roofs or open space plans, or many occupants, ask the building manager to identify the best available refuge. 
  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system.  The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.  If your community has sirens, become familiar with the warning tone.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. Meteorologists can predict when conditions might be right for a tornado.  In an emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.  Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a Tornado:

  • If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately!  Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.
  • If you are in school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building then:       
    • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room built to FEMA criteria, basement, storm shelter, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a smaller interior room, such as a closet or hallway, that is away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body as best you can e.g., with a heavy coat or blankets, pillows.
    • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
    • Do not open windows.

After The Tornado

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How to Get the Best Fuel Economy

Try our test-based tips to save at the pump, and see which myths we bust

How you drive can significantly affect your fuel economy. That’s the key finding of CR’s fuel-economy tests. Even when fuel prices are very low, you can still save serious money by making small changes to your driving style and habits.

CR has gathered its best test-based tips and techniques for getting the most gas mileage from your car to help ease the pain at the pump.

The FAQ below addresses common questions we receive and dispels some fuel-economy myths.  

What’s the Best Way to Cut Fuel Costs?

Slow down. In our tests, we’ve found that driving faster on the highway can really take a bite out of a car’s fuel efficiency.

We measured gas mileage while driving at a steady 55, 65, and 75 mph in a Nissan Altima and Toyota RAV4. Reducing speed from 65 mph to 55 mph improved fuel economy by 6 mpg in the Altima and 8 mpg in the RAV4. 

The penalty of cruising at 75 mph, rather than 65 mph, was almost 7 mpg in the Altima and 6 mpg in the RAV4. 

These findings are similar to what we have recorded in the past, once again proving that higher speeds exact a toll on fuel consumption. 

Another way to look at it: Speeding up from 55 to 75 mph is like moving from a compact car to a large SUV. Beyond fuel concerns, speeding is, of course, a safety risk as well.

Avoid hard acceleration and braking whenever possible. In our tests, frequent bursts of acceleration and braking reduced an older Toyota Camry’s mileage by 2 to 3 mpg. Once up to speed on the highway, maintain a steady pace.

The harder you accelerate, the more fuel you use. Unnecessary braking wastes the fuel you used to get up to speed. Drive smoothly and anticipate the movement of traffic. Once up to speed, maintain a steady pace. Smooth acceleration, cornering, and braking also extend the life of the engine, transmission, brakes, and tires.

What’s the Impact of Carrying Stuff on the Roof?

At highway speeds, more than 50 percent of engine power goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag. Don’t add to that by carrying unneeded things on the roof. We did fuel economy tests at highway speed on a Nissan Altima and Toyota RAV4 with a roof rack, tail-hitch rack, and a roof-top box.

Carrying two mountain bikes on the roof had the biggest impact. The Altima lost 13 mpg, going from 46 mpg down to 33. The RAV4 lost 7 mpg, dropping to 32 mpg from 39 mpg.

There’s even a loss when driving with the empty roof rack installed: The Altima dropped 5 mpg and the Toyota lost 2 mpg.

The Nissan lost 12 mpg with the bikes on the hitch-mounted rack, while the RAV4 was down only 5 mpg. The bikes stuck out to the sides of the sedan, which created extra drag. They were mostly hidden behind the wider, boxier RAV4’s bodywork.

The roof-top box resulted in a 9 mpg decrease for the Altima, and a 5 mpg drop for the RAV4.

Overall, the aerodynamic drag doesn’t hurt the more boxy RAV4 as much as the sleeker Altima. 

Going across town, this may not be a concern. But on a multistate family road trip, a carrier or rack on the roof would have a real impact on fuel costs. And it could create some annoying wind noise. 

Use AC or Open Windows?

The harder the AC system has to work, the worse the impact on fuel economy. When we measured the fuel-economy difference in a  2008 Ford Focus, Honda  Accord, and Subaru Forester, we found that fuel use with the  AC running went up with higher outside temperatures.  

At 55° F, there were negligible differences. But when we measured again on days when the temperature was in the low 70s and high 80s, we got fewer miles per gallon with the AC on.

In general, expect a drop from 1 to 4 mpg with the air conditioning running. The effect of opening the windows at 65 mph was not measurable. In any case, the AC helps dehumidify the cabin, which can contribute to keeping the driver alert and safe. We think that’s a worthwhile trade-off.

How Far Can You Go When the Low-Fuel Warning Light Comes On?

There is no set rule, but most cars have a reserve of between 1 and 2 gallons of gas when the light goes on, or enough to travel about 40 to 50 miles or so at a moderate speed.

To maximize those last couple of gallons, we suggest slowing down and maintaining a steady pace. Because you never know what challenges life will serve up, including traffic, don’t rely on the light as your cue to fill up. 

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Chipotle gift card winner for Shield Insurance Agency GIve A Way

Shield Insurance Gift Card Winners!

Friday July 30, 2021

Every week, Shield Insurance Agency draws a winner from its clients and social media followers. Be sure to LIKE our Facebook Page to get yourself entered to win and see who the winners are!

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