TIME TO READ: 7 MINUTES
With remote access, VPNs, and people using personal devices more than ever, is your company's Internet bandwidth feeling the pinch?
"Bandwidth Overload" is a persistent, frustrating problem. It causes everything from slow Internet access to weakened cybersecurity.
The good news: It's preventable!
Let's talk about how Bandwidth Overload happens, what kinds of trouble it can bring your business, and how to avoid it.
How Bandwidth Overload Happens
When too many users get on the network, and it doesn't have enough bandwidth for them all to do their work, what happens? You get slow webpage loads, slow email receipts, problems accessing shared files, and garbled calls.
Let's back up a little bit. What is "bandwidth" anyway?
Think of bandwidth like the maximum capacity of a street. In an office network, each "car" is a device connecting. Your work laptop. Your phone. Each makes a separate connection to the network. Those connections all take up some of the space on the "street."
Most of the time, connections don't need a huge amount of bandwidth. The cars move back & forth at top speed. It can add up though. Think of 20 cars racing down the street at once. Now think 50. Now 100. What happens? Traffic jam.
Bandwidth Overload, then, is what happens when you have too many network connections and not enough "space" to accept them.
The Troubles Bandwidth Overload Brings
You might think overloaded bandwidth shows up as slow Internet speeds. That's one symptom, but it's usually accompanied by more.
Every network has a "hard limit" on its bandwidth. It's measured in megabits per second, or "Mb/s". When you hit this limit, your users experience problems like:
- Problems accessing the company network or its resources
- Failed network logins
- 'Unknown User' alerts popping up
- Problems using SaaS apps
- Account lockouts
- Persistent issues with VoIP
Overload can even weaken overall cybersecurity. How? It can lead users to disable security protections. "If I can't use the VPN to get in, I'll turn the VPN off."
This creates security holes, which cybercriminals can exploit with DDoS attacks.
Okay, enough of the doom-and-gloom. Time for solutions. Bandwidth Overload IS preventable...and here's how.
How to Prevent Bandwidth Overload from Frustrating Everybody: 5 Steps
FIRST: Examine your total bandwidth. In the cloud era, we recommend at least 2Mb/s (that's 2 megabits per second) of bandwidth per user.
So, for a 10-user office, you would want at least 20Mb/s of total bandwidth. For a 50-user office, 100Mb/s. For a 100-user office, 200Mb/s. That allows each user to do several high-bandwidth tasks at once: Have a video conference, use a cloud service, etc.
This is a "floor" though. More bandwidth is better, especially if your users rely on high-quality conferencing and/or use multiple cloud services.
The good news is, bandwidth is cheaper now than it's ever been. It's often just as cost-effective to install 50Mb/s as it is 20Mb/s.
If you run server apps inside your network that need to talk to the cloud 24/7, they may require extra bandwidth to run comfortably.
There's one app that takes up quite a bit of bandwidth: cloud-based Voice over IP. Because of its real-time nature, making/receiving calls, adding video on the fly, it requires extra bandwidth.
How many megabits per second should your company use? Use this Bandwidth Calculator to estimate, or ask your IT manager.
SECOND: If you already have the recommended amount of bandwidth for your office, make sure your slow Internet is not due to old hardware, bad Wi-Fi, viruses, etc. The quickest way to do this is through a network audit. It's worth having an IT expert
analyze the network, before you sign a new Internet contract that will cost you more money.
Once you have a good idea of how much bandwidth you need, you can upgrade your Internet access.
THIRD: Okay, you've decided on a specific bandwidth level to support your company, and upgraded the Internet. Is that it? Not quite.
Next, examine your internal network's connectivity. If Internet access is the "pipe" bringing in bandwidth, then your internal network controls the "flow" of bandwidth to users as they need it.
It will do this automatically if it's configured right. Ask your IT manager or consultant to examine the network and offer the best configuration.
FOURTH: If you have a lot of BYOD users, limit the number of devices each user can have on the company network. You can set a "max device" limit at the network level.
FIFTH: Finally, and this is important—you must monitor bandwidth usage. How much bandwidth does everyone use on a daily basis? Weekly? Monthly? Monitoring will tell you.
You'd want to monitor bandwidth usage for two reasons:
- Identifying if/when you need more. Typically, you need to increase bandwidth when you hit 25% of daily usage. This allows for a higher threshold on days when you know you'll have higher-than-average usage.
- Finding out what's happening inside the network. If you typically use 20Mb/s on any given day, and then one day you see 100Mb/s in usage? You have an issue that needs resolution—fast!
Many bandwidth monitoring apps exist, made by PRTG/Paessler, N-able, or ManageEngine. Ask your IT consultant for their recommendation.
Fix Bandwidth Overload Once, It Won't Bother You All Year
Once you've tackled bandwidth overload with better access and good monitoring, the problem goes away for all users. Everyone gets more stable Internet speeds, no hiccups while online...a smooth, no-surprises workday.
If you're experiencing Bandwidth Overload, please notify your IT manager. If it's slowing you down, it's slowing everyone down!
Looking to improve your network bandwidth this year? Contact us for a network review (no obligation!) at firstname.lastname@example.org.