If you've ever watched a video conference signal grind to a halt or listened to a voice call drop out, you'll know how frustrating it is when network bandwidth can't keep up with your needs. If you find connectivity slowing to a crawl, then it's time to reassess your network performance and hunt down potential bandwidth bottlenecks. Here's what to look for.
Carriers tend to describe their networks in terms of bandwidth, but it's more useful to consider its throughput. Bandwidth describes the connection's ideal data capacity, typically in megabits per second, but throughput describes the real capacity that you're getting.
Lots of things can reduce throughput, even on a high-capacity network. These include things on either side of your office router. On the carrier side, your copper broadband connection might succumb to technical challenges. Copper links like cable broadband and DSL can suffer electrical interference from large motors or thunderstorms, for example.
Copper connections get weaker the further away you are from the local aggregation point. They can also suffer from congestion when data usage in the neighbourhood increases, slowing down traffic. This problem is less likely with fibre connections, which are far faster, but congestion is still technically possible on any packet-switched network. Dedicated leased line connections eliminate this congestion problem.
Inside your office's local area network (LAN), things get more complex still with many factors affecting network throughput. This includes the number of machines on your network and what data they're sending. Employees who insist on streaming 4K video could affect others who are trying to conduct external VoIP calls or access remote desktop sessions from outside the office, for example. One way to address traffic problems is by prioritising traffic, either by traffic type or by port. Many switches and routers feature quality of service (QoS) options that can give important traffic first refusal on the network.
Another bottleneck is Wi-Fi. Nothing tanks a connection like taking a device too far from a Wi-Fi access point, or competing for access with too many other endpoints. Populating a building with sufficient access points (or a connected mesh Wi-Fi system) will help solve this problem.
Auditing your network throughput involves checking the packet rates on various parts of the LAN to see how much of the theoretical bandwidth is being used. This will help you to spot bottleneck areas. Check the speed of network equipment including switches and routers. Also the network ports on the machines connected to them to help eliminate chokepoints.
In some cases, you might find that the network isn't the problem at all. An under-configured server or a chatty application might be the root cause of your performance issues.
For many companies without the in-house expertise to stress-test their infrastructure, bringing in a third party expert like Probrand is an easy and ensured way to troubleshoot and fix network throughput. We're a one-stop shop for network analysis and upgrades, both on your LAN and your WAN. We will hone your server and hardware performance before checking for optimisation opportunities within your network configuration. Then, if necessary, we'll upgrade your network hardware to ensure that it gives you the throughput you need.
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