Thanks to the likes of YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, and VoIP (among others), networks are more taxed than ever with heavy traffic loads. Making sure today’s networks are humming and healthy is not only a daunting task for network administrators, it’s a must for organizations that want to stay productive and competitive.
Enter bandwidth management – the process of measuring and controlling communication on the network in order to avoid poor performance. Below are six bandwidth management tips to keep organizations ahead of network issues.
1. Baseline critical network segments
Know who is using what, when, where, and why in regards to network segments. The only way a company can improve bandwidth management is to know where they stand in terms of network demands. Then measure success against those baselines. Organizations can start this process by looking at Internet connections, WAN links, WLAN environments, and the data center. A network analyzer is a great tool for creating baselines as it helps with organizing critical statistics into a PDF or web report on all types of networks including wired and wireless. These reports can then be used to not only solve issues that currently exist, but also to allow organizations to go back in time to validate performance and bandwidth utilization as necessary.
2. Prioritize critical business applications
Every organization will have different priorities. In fact, each network segment may have different protocol priorities because of the specific applications that traverse those segments. Certainly, the top application (based on business importance) on the sales segment will be different from the top application on the marketing segment. Those application protocols need to be handled in terms of importance for the segment they are individually on. But, when those protocols get to the same wire at the core or elsewhere, it is important that they still respect other segments’ needs.
3. Tie baseline protocols and usage to those critical business applications
Understand specific applications and their use of protocols. And remember, there is usually more than one. Any protocol that isn’t performing well can affect the overall application performance (the weakest link per se). This is another area where a network analyzer can help break down and show individual flows and their performance. Organizations can have a window into the network to see the weakest link as well as options to sort application flows with various criteria choices.
4. Remove unnecessary protocols/traffic
Almost every network has unnecessary traffic. Some devices (especially printers) support stacks and protocols that aren’t in use in the environment. Often, WLAN traffic has not been pruned. Sometimes, protocols that help manage the network, like routing protocols, SNMP, etc., can be found on those WLANs without any purpose, eating up available bandwidth, again, with no benefit.
5. Use QoS and bandwidth shaping to prioritize the business priority applications
Organizations can initially use the feature sets on their routers and switches to help with prioritization. In some cases, they may need to purchase specific hardware or software to help with this. There are many solutions on the market today, each focusing on solving issues with bandwidth management.
6. Review and manage
Since the network is dynamic and users won’t always do the same thing twice, it is critical that organizations consistently review network activity. Businesses should verify that the processes and/or devices architected are accomplishing what they need to and that the overall network profile has not changed. It is very important to see new trends approaching and make changes to the network to account for behavioral changes in an organization’s user communities.