Technicians and Networking: A business investment for the CI Industry

“It’s the network, stupid.”

Sure, I lifted the phrase from a past U.S. president and adjusted it for my purpose, but there’s a point to it. Just as that president hung “it’s the economy, stupid” in the Oval Office, we at Control4 had a problem staring us in the face. Around 30 percent of our dealer support calls were being resolved by fixing the home network – clearly, we were overlooking something important. Then, when we would send our field technicians out to help a dealer on a project, we realized this number was more likely close to 50 percent where the network was the problem. What kind of a conclusion can be drawn from such statistics for the CI industry?

Dealers in our industry know the first conclusion all too well: every home technology is increasingly being connected to the network. The second conclusion is a tougher pill for some to swallow: very few dealers and technicians in our industry really understand the fundamentals of TCP/IP home networks. At Control4, we had to admit to ourselves that many of our own employees—those who worked in a technical capacity—didn’t either. Self-diagnosis is tough, but the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

The next step for us at Control4 was to merge with a networking company. If more and more home technologies were connecting to the network, then we knew that we had to do more than simply “admit it,” or “embrace it,” or any of the other clichés. We had to become it. Having Pakedge join forces with Control4 fulfilled that step.

“No one has designed networking training specifically for professionals in the CI industry.”

And that brought light to the next logical step. The data shows that CI dealers need help with networking. What does a subnet mask really do? Is a switch or a router more fundamental to a network? Which is better, static addressing or DHCP reservations? What’s so much better about Cat 6 Ethernet cables over Cat 5e? Why even use cables in the age of WiFi? As we surveyed technicians at our dealer partners, it became clear. No one has designed networking training specifically for professionals in the CI industry.

Sure, the leading enterprise networking provider Cisco has a wealth of training resources. But it costs thousands of dollars, and teaches concepts that go way beyond what is required for even very large homes. It’s just not efficient for a dealership. And the alternative, various vendor webinars, tend to teach the manufacturer’s products instead of real, practical networking knowledge. Sitting back watching a webinar is no substitute for real, hands-on experience.

CI dealers know that having technicians who are well-trained in networking helps them build a better business. It means better integrations. Fewer support calls. Fewer unplanned truck rolls. Fewer angry-customer-phone-call surprises. Simply put, it differentiates your business.

That’s why Control4 recently introduced Pakedge Certified Network Administrator (PCNA). We threw out the tedious textbooks and worn out analogies that date back to the 1970’s in favour of a fast-paced, witty online curriculum. But we combined it with practical, hands-on activities with the inclusion of a complete kit of networking gear. Instead of just passively hearing and watching, the technician-in-training actively participates in doing, applying networking concepts as you learn them.

all technical kit included in Control4 Pakedge PCNA Training box

We consider putting gear in the hands of technicians to be an investment in the CI industry. So we made the PCNA certification program, including the required Pakedge gear (a value of $2,300 U.S. MSRP) available for an upfront cost of $1,250 per enrollee. The trainee keeps the study gear, and Control4 rebates the dealership $600 rebate per technician who certifies by passing the exam. The resulting final cost is just $650 per certified technician – a much more affordable solution than other industry training that includes the cost of travel plus the curriculum itself.

Networks built by competent technicians are more secure, stable and require less time spent in the field. And because technicians keep the networking gear that they studied on, practical real-time troubleshooting can be easily practiced first on their own product rather than experimenting directly on customer systems.  Customers benefit from home networks installed by PCNA certified dealers because they are assured that their networks are built correctly, every time.

Looking to get started? Visit to learn more and enroll in the Control4 Pakedge PCNA program.

Ted Haeger is senior director of training & support at Control4