How can I monitor my bandwidth usage?
Projecting bandwidth usage is important for setting up a network, as described above. But ongoing monitoring of both LANs and any WANs is key to maintaining smooth functioning for any business, so you should know how to check bandwidth usage effectively.
You may be tempted to just add more bandwidth when the network slows down, but this is an expensive solution that ignores underlying issues. Monitoring allows you to head off issues and troubleshoot slowdowns. For instance, if your ISP has a bandwidth cap, automated alerts help you slow down usage before you reach that limit. To implement effective monitoring, you’ll want to choose a tool that gathers and communicates both granular and big-picture network usage information.
It’s possible to monitor bandwidth on individual devices, with each workstation using a basic monitoring tool to keep track of how various applications and functions affect bandwidth usage. These tools are available for download for both Windows and Mac devices. This allows individuals to identify how file transfers or video chats are sapping too much bandwidth, but it doesn’t offer a business an overall understanding of usage across the network.
MSPs can also monitor an enterprises’ network at the router, which will provide a more comprehensive understanding of total usage. This can help you understand if the network has the capacity to add more devices, or if you will soon exceed the bandwidth limit. Check the ISP’s website—the company may offer a monthly readout of bandwidth usage across the network. Of course, the issue with using these parameters is that they don’t offer enough granularity, limiting your troubleshooting efforts.
For MSPs working with enterprises of any size, the most effective choice is a bandwidth usage monitoring tool that provides both an overview and specific device information, like the free Realtime Bandwidth Monitor from SolarWinds MSP. This tool allows you to easily monitor multiple interfaces on your network, at whatever level of detail you require. You can see how much bandwidth is in use, watch and record traffic patterns, and even set alert thresholds. This type of monitoring tool is the simplest way to understand whether your load-balancing is configured correctly and to help catch any problems that could be slowing down the network.
How does low bandwidth impact a business?
If its network is experiencing low bandwidth, a business will likely run into challenges that may interrupt workflow and cut into the bottom line.
On the customer or client side, individuals attempting to navigate a website won’t wait if service is slow. What’s more, effective customer service might not be possible, client communication may bottom out as video conferencing lags or skips, and slow payment processing could directly impact revenue.
Internally, business operations may drag and even come to a halt. Cloud-based apps, like Office 365 or G Suite, may not function smoothly if internet bandwidth usage is high, leading to employee frustration. File sharing is crucial to many aspects of business, but this is a major data drag and may not be possible with a low bandwidth network. Surveillance or security technology may not operate as it’s supposed to, putting the business at risk. And if an enterprise consistently experiences network issues, leadership can forget about trying to scale operations until they have the issues figured out.
Bottom line? Low bandwidth will cost the business—literally. Major interruptions can mean a direct hit on any given workday, but even minor slowdowns impact productivity and profitability over time and can drive a decrease in employee morale.
How do I fix low bandwidth?
It can be difficult to figure out what is causing low bandwidth, and time consuming to overhaul business operations while looking for a solution. If you hope to fix low bandwidth, your first step is to set up a detailed network monitoring tool, as mentioned above. Once you have more information about what’s taking up bandwidth, it will be easier to see whether the problem calls for changes at the device or network level.
Although the problem typically is not attributable to individual workstations, these can nonetheless be configured to be more efficient. Businesses can suggest the use of certain web browsers or require updated browsers. They may also choose to block sites that stream music or videos, as these can slow things down across the network. MSPs can provide data-saving unified software updates rather than forcing each computer to download the update separately. That said, updates shouldn’t be neglected, as out-of-date computers tend to have more malware or viruses, which run in the background and can easily eat up bandwidth.
At a broader level, enterprises may need to examine their overall network practices and services. Talk to the ISP about whether the business is on the correct plan. Is there a data cap? Does the ISP tend to “throttle” websites that require a lot of bandwidth, like video-streaming sites? It may be time to pay for updated and more comprehensive service. In addition, the business may want to make it standard protocol to send data and traffic to a cloud service provider in order to relieve the impact on internal networks.
As you design the network, remember to plan for solutions—for instance, multiprotocol label-switching networks can prioritize key functions, like video conferencing. MSPs should work to provide a quality of service architecture that optimizes bandwidth allocation across both LAN and WAN environments.
Another option is to update old hardware, including routers, Ethernet cables, and modems. Ethernet connections are typically faster than Wi-Fi connections, and for Wi-Fi, make sure you aren’t keeping too many routers on one channel. MSPs can help enterprises place wireless routers in a way that avoids slowdowns or dead zones due to any obstacles.
During the process, keep in mind that bottlenecks in business bandwidth usually relate not to the LAN environment but issues within the WAN. The demands on the WAN are increasing due to bandwidth-intensive applications like cloud apps and the IoT. As more and more local networks connect, bandwidth optimization can become more difficult. It may take specific WAN optimization tools to reduce the traffic across these networks and free up bandwidth.
Low bandwidth is a common problem that businesses may call on MSPs to fix. Network bandwidth usage monitoring tools go a long way in helping IT professionals identify the problem, propose solutions, and configure networks to run without slowdowns or interruptions, even as an enterprise changes and grows.