How to Get (and Keep) Control of Your Network Bandwidth

Garbled and choppy VoIP calls? Check. Slow Internet connection? Check. Loss of detail in video image? Check.

All these signs point to a case of bandwidth overload creating unacceptable network latency. With new protocols like 802.11n expanding the need for bandwidth with much faster data rates, it is more important than ever to have a thorough understanding of your network to prevent strain and overuse. Detailed below are ways to prevent latency issues associated with bandwidth overload.

Create a baseline.

An important first step in improving bandwidth management is to know the number of users and their bandwidth needs, as well as application bandwidth needs. This will determine the overall demand on the network and will help you allocate bandwidth appropriately. Networks have a rhythm, so be sure to assess these needs over a period of time, focusing on both daily and weekly rhythms. Once this baseline is established, you’ll have something to measure success against. Organizations can start this process by looking at their Internet connections, WAN links, WLAN environments, and data centers. A network analyzer is a great tool for creating baselines for both wired and wireless networks as it provides critical statistics in an easy-to-read PDF or web report. These analyzers allow organizations to identify problems in the network and validate performance and bandwidth utilization.

Pay attention to fluctuations in network resources.

New application introductions can tip the balance of bandwidth usage and have serious impacts on network performance. Visibility into network resource usage is essential to help network managers accurately meet user needs, particularly when bandwidth-intensive applications are in use.

Use dynamically-adjusting 802.11 WLANs.

802.11 WLANs have the ability to dynamically adjust to changing conditions and to configure themselves to make the greatest use of available bandwidth. These capabilities work best when the problems they address are kept within limits. To do this, you must understand the limits of the RF environment in the areas where wireless is to be deployed. Assess the overall area over space and time to get a quantifiable baseline of your environment.

Also, with the increased bandwidth of 802.11n, you’ll likely be considering applications like voice-over-wireless, which will require additional measurement techniques like wireless roaming to ensure proper operation of your network and ensure wireless quality. Be sure to plan wireless management upfront.

Prune your protocols/traffic.

Most networks have unnecessary traffic. Often, WLAN traffic has not been pruned and this can cause a clog in bandwidth. Check protocols that help manage the network like routing protocols, SNMP, etc. and determine if they have a purpose.

Constantly manage.

Networks and users are dynamic. They won’t always do the same thing twice and it is critical that organizations consistently and constantly review their network activity. It is important to see new trends approaching and make changes to your network to account for the behavioural changes in your organization’s user community.

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