How to Determine Optimal Network Bandwidth

Everyone has experienced the pain of low bandwidth at one point. The dreaded spinning circle or incredibly slow webpage load can turn even the most patient user into an irritated employee. Not enough network bandwidth can easily equate to a frustratingly, unproductive work environment and lots of complaints.

Unfortunately, there is a point where increased bandwidth does not equal increased productivity — too much bandwidth results in a big bill without much to show for it. 

What's the right level of bandwidth for your business? How do you calculate your business bandwidth needs? This blog explores those questions.    

Why is bandwidth management important? 

Businesses today rely on connectivity. Bandwidth or internet speed is the most data you can transfer at a given time. Most businesses need a level of bandwidth that enables employees to access files and web-based applications quickly. Additionally, as more communications move online, many organizations have adopted Internet-enabled communication systems that need to be online to run their Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) devices. These advanced services demand a higher level of bandwidth to operate correctly. There are also necessary quality of service (QoS) controls for VoIP and streaming media services. 

The key is to manage bandwidth consumption by applications. By setting thresholds for particular applications or areas of the business - you protect other areas and services. For example, by ensuring your Unified Communications Service or VoIP service always has a protected and adequate level of bandwidth, you can prevent dropped calls, poor sound reception, or garbled data that results from lack of bandwidth.  

How much bandwidth do I need? 

It is the million-dollar question, and many factors go into estimating your usage needs. You'll need to consider your Wi-Fi and fixed-line connections. Wired or fixed-lines tend to be more consistent. When you measure your existing internet speeds, you should check at a few different times of day on both your wired and wireless connections. 

To determine your bandwidth requirements, you need to look at four areas: 

  1.  Inventory all the regular business activities that require internet usage. 
  2. Determine the bandwidth required for each of the tasks identified
  3. List how many people will be performing these tasks at the same time. 
    • Don't be conservative on these estimates. A little extra bandwidth is okay. 
  4. Calculate the bandwidth you need for all the tasks happening at the same time.  

Unfortunately, that isn't the end of bandwidth planning. More bandwidth doesn't always equate to consistent better network performance. Other channels outside the network may not be working correctly. 

For instance, latency within the circuit to which several networks are connected may be high because of congestion within the circuit itself. Another factor to consider is that data travels between two or more endpoints. In many cases, transmittal may go through a series of endpoints until data reaches its final endpoint. The source point is not always to blame because the bandwidth has a role in every endpoint, and any deficiency in the path contributes to quality issues.

Monitoring bandwidth utilization

Once you've come up with an estimate for your organization's bandwidth requirements, you'll want to understand how that bandwidth is utilized to ensure users are getting the best possible network performance. There are a variety of software solutions that can do this for you. 

Many of these tools are capable of monitoring the Wide Area Network (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN) performance in real-time. They can capture data, device, application, and user activities to monitor interface utilization. The more advanced types can perform traffic analysis with a detailed examination of current, historical, and peak usages to establish patterns.

IT managers also need to apply good governance practices to bandwidth consumption so that the utilization of network resources is optimized. These practices should be implemented before, during, and after the deployment of applications. They should also be done every time an application is modified or upgraded to preempt any unexpected impact on network performance.

One essential practice is to model any changes to your bandwidth or network management to determine if the changes will deliver the results expected. With advancements in technology, you can replicate your existing enterprise network in a virtual silo and run tests simultaneously. The tests should be able to find solutions to what-if scenarios like the capability of the network to support additional users, remote offices, remote servers, and remote workers.

Don't compromise your QoS. Sufficient supply and proactive utilization management are vital to determining optimal bandwidth that will improve your business. To learn more about network upgrade requirements, contact us at BlackPoint IT Services for a free consultation session.