As a former cubicle-based drone, I can readily identify with the bandwidth problems faced by users, with slowdowns and interruptions suffered for a variety of reasons, whether it is essential backups best run after-hours, problems with new security patches or updates, failing hardware or streaming video addicts. Unfortunately, when even data centers are debating how they will handle the sheer volume of data traffic through their infrastructure, what are the implications for companies? How much speed can your network handle?
Like it or not, bandwidth monitoring is necessary to ensure that all users can perform the tasks they were hired to perform, without long page load delays or network downtime.
Some companies place bandwidth caps per user, but this is sometime counterproductive. Others have a whitelist of sites or services for each employee, but this too defeats the purpose, especially if online research is required. Still others have no need to worry about bandwidth as they have many leased lines or have a limited number of users. Even these fortunate companies will have to consider the benefits of bandwidth monitoring as disruptive technologies (such as the IoT, Big Data, Wi-Fi and improvements in mobile broadband and video broadcasting) place more demand on their broadband connection and indeed on their network infrastructures.
Decisions Required To Ensure Business Continuity Despite Disruption
There is no one-size-fits-all elixir that will satisfy your future bandwidth requirements. Just like ISPs, broadcasters, and telecom service providers, your organization will need to plan for a future with ever-increasing data traffic OR at least take the necessary steps to monitor and set traffic allowances according to business goals.
You, as a company stakeholder with a vested interest in the survival of the company, need to consider the data traffic necessary to ensure that company operations run smoothly. Questions that need answering include but are not limited to:
Your Company Network
Considerations include cabling types and connected hardware. Your Cat6 copper cabling may suffice now but is a fiber upgrade necessary soon? Is multicore fiber required? Will you need extra leased lines? Estimate the costs of upgrading your entire infrastructure if necessary once you determine your over data traffic requirements.
Identification Of Data-Intensive Usage
If your company is involved in Business Intelligence (BI), AI (Artificial Intelligence), the Internet of Things (IoT) or any other data-intensive application, your network will need to handle it. Wi-Fi, smart sensors, pending 5G networks (with speeds some 1000 times faster than 4G) and the new 4K/8K video resolutions. When even YouTube habitually offers streaming 4K videos and it’s already commonplace on streaming movie services, obviously, it will put pressure on a company network if allowed.
It is necessary to monitor the bandwidth of any connected smart sensors or devices, as, depending on the protocol used, they can disrupt a network. When you consider that a 4K movie requires upwards of 100GB of storage, implications to your network are not limited to available bandwidth.
Prepare For End-user Habits In Advance
It is a sad fact of life in the technology realm that human error is the cause of many problems, most data breaches, for example. You will find that there is a similar pattern when it comes to reclaiming your bandwidth for company-related activities.
Regardless of removing any chance of winning future user-based popularity contests, management and IT must take a stand and before it’s too late. As part of my “If I ruled the world” anthology, I would instigate a no-nonsense policy to ensure maximum productivity from the company network. You may decide if the following are relevant, too difficult to enforce or too heavy-handed (with a negative impact on employee morale).
- Make detailed bandwidth monitoring an essential part of network admin.
- Buy the appropriate employees company devices (smartphones and tablets etc.).
- Ignore so-called privacy issues as IT is only working with company-owned equipment.
- Do not allow any personal devices to connect to the network. Users are unlikely to use services that affect their own data caps from their telecom provider.
- Unless required for role, configure user and device permissions to block all video streaming, especially social media, online storage and movie/TV subscription services.
- If allowed, users should be made aware that steaming in 4K is only relevant if the hardware involved is 4K compliant and a large screen. Streaming 4K to a mobile device is laughable as the human eye cannot tell the difference between 720p and 4K on a smartphone.
- Ensure all backups or updates take place after hours. This includes data retrieved from smart sensors and all databases.
- Prepare to educate uses in bandwidth awareness classes that are likely to be as effective as security awareness training.
- Repeat 8 above until everyone involved is effectively ‘brainwashed’ and using text-only settings for online research.
If real-time data analysis is a priority due to industry activity, or you’re involved in video broadcasting (wish to ensure universal access to 4K promos, for example) then you will adjust my policy accordingly but still make sure that your infrastructure can handle peak traffic requirements.
In conclusion, technology is always advancing but these innovations can often complicate business operations. Clearly, bandwidth monitoring is necessary as all companies need to know where improvement is possible. Companies need to decide if any new tech is worth implementing or worth preventing access to it… If there isn’t a 4K screen in the whole company, do you need to stream in 4K? If 4G is adequate, do you need 5G soon, considering that initial subscriber costs are likely to be high? The best advice I can give is to ignore the sales pitches (Ipswitch have the courage to offer a variety of free network monitoring tools)and select technology that optimizes the desired process and saves time and/or money. In addition, of course, I’d make sure that users aren’t in working in opposition to these efforts.
What do you think? Is bandwidth monitoring on your radar?