How to stop network traffic grinding you down

Marc Thaler

AP photo/Damian DovarganesDoes your corporate network resemble rush hour in Los Angeles? If it’s anything like the miles of California freeway that make up Interstate 5 – read: congested – then shifting into reverse for a brief review on bandwidth is a good idea.

Your network will be better for it.

How IT pros enforce the consumption of bandwidth can’t be overstated – though it can be overlooked. Bandwidth gives users the capacity to digitally transmit data. The more that’s consumed, the longer the process takes to send information across the network. When efficiency dips, productivity drops.

The challenge, therefore, is ensuring bandwidth is treated as a valuable commodity. There are strategies and services available to IT pros responsible for keeping tabs on consumption. But it all starts with thinking of bandwidth in clear, simple terms.

“For a company, it’s like owning a private highway,” LOGICnow Sales Engineer David Ianetta explains. “How many cars, or users, is the company going to allow on the highway? Are there times of the work day when there’s more traffic and things are busier?”

Media websites with streaming capability are commonly cited for draining bandwidth. One employee watching a video or listening to music online is unlikely to halt traffic. But a staff of workers simultaneously streaming – from PCs, smartphones and tablets, mind you – can be problematic. (Raise your hand if you have a different definition of “March Madness” when the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament rolls around.)   

“The more you throw on the highway, the more clutter there is,” Ianetta says. “And more clutter creates a greater chance for accidents.”

• Keep it clear and save a packet
One equivalent of an accident is a packet loss, which TechTarget defines as “the failure of one or more transmitted packets (of data) to arrive at their destination.” Users relying on fax over IP (FoIP) systems may encounter this road block. And don’t forget: Resending the same packet consumes bandwidth, too.

That’s why bandwidth monitoring is paramount. IT pros can block users’ ability to visit websites, set time limits for web browsing or make Internet access available at specific times of day.

“Bandwidth consumption is really about time management, business management and resource management,” Ianetta says, “because we’re all connected to the Internet.”

These tips, along with a quality bandwidth monitoring solution, can increase network performance:

Do your homework
Does the company have a web policy? Are you familiar with it? Along those lines, how much bandwidth does the business buy? How did the company arrive at its decision to purchase that particular Internet package?

It’s quite common, Ianetta says, that businesses take a “blind approach” to network management.

Break it down
Determine the amount of bandwidth required to meet your business needs. Likewise, identify how much bandwidth users consume for activities unrelated to work. This exercise is essential for creating controls and policies that grant users acceptable browsing freedom without hurting network and workforce efficiency.

Know your network – at all times
Typically, it takes an interruption to alert IT pros that a problem has surfaced. And by that point, Ianetta says, IT pros are forced to be reactive rather than proactive.

IT pros that have the pulse of the network when everything runs smoothly have a distinct advantage: They can spot issues quicker, and address them faster, because they know where to look.

A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found that gridlock on US roads costs the average American household $1,700 a year. Similarly, what is unnecessary network traffic costing your company?

Think of it this way: You can either pay the cost to boost your network’s efficiency, or you can pay the price for an inefficient network.

“If you have a computer, it’s the same as having a car: You want to take care of it,” Ianetta says. “If you don’t maintain your vehicle, it won’t last as long. And it will let you down.”