Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When Should You Add More Bandwidth To Your Business Network (e.g. WAN) ??

Many businesses ask this question. It's common ..... so don't feel alone.

Is there a general rule of thumb, a percentage of bandwidth usage, that is an indicator that it is time to lease more bandwidth?

The true answer here is, "It depends".

Of course you need to know how many users you have ..... and what they're using the network for (e.g. CAD, Multi-media applications, sharing large data files, medical imagery, etc.). That's a factor in your ultimate decision obviously. As is what is the operation, are users on one side and servers on the other, are servers and users on both sides, how many points? Plus .... are either of those categories (number of users, applications) going to grow in the near future.

If growth of users and/or applications is in the distant future ..... you have more room to plan and maybe go with a gradual solution in the interim. In this case you may be able to go with a bonded T1 or burstable DS3 bandwidth rather than a full DS3 or OC3 bandwidth.

Before you can make a real decision on increasing your bandwidth though (thus increasing your expenses) the first step is to log/record your bandwidth usage patterns for a specific period of time - I'd say at least a month (30 day period). This will create a decent benchmark on where you stand in regards to your bandwidth needs.

Ignore occassional spikes -- spikes will happen, this is a reality of networking. However if you have sustained spikes lasting for several minutes at a time and this occurs at least once every day that is a hint of a larger problem.

(If that happened I'd note the time of day such spiking occurs, then correlate the times if they match up to any specific task the company is doing during that time period each day).

However, as a general rule ..... look at the bandwidth usage throughout the day. If the average usage is at 50% then start to talk about increasing the bandwidth. If it's at 70%, you will start seeing major trouble, don't just talk about increasing bandwidth then, DO IT.

If you want to be a bit more lenient rather than conservative on your benchmarks ..... get excited about increasing bandwidth when you consistently see usage at 75% bandwidth, when it hits 85% there is no debate, no talking ..... just order more bandwidth.

But, remember to base your decision on the average usage ..... not the spikes that may occur during the day. Again, spikes will happen no matter what your bandwidth is.

Here's another tip (or two) .......

Much of the time bandwith is not the problem, but the amount of clutter and the lack of optomization at the machine level.

So ..... on every computer on the network do the following:

First, delete any temporary files (even temporary system files) in the c:\windows\temp directory and in their profile under local settings.

Second, get rid of any unused applications.

Third, ensure that the swap file is optomized.

Fourth, Stick more memory in the system if possible.

Last, Defrag the hard drive!

Following the above you should be able to reclaim some speed. If speed is your main issue (it isn't always).

Also .... if you get your files of a network server don't forget to optomize that as well. But the first rule we tell users is do not work off server copies if you can help it.

Now, if after going through all of the above you still decide you do need more bandwidth ..... you can get free assistance to find the right solution (at the best price too) here: Bandwidth Solution

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