Company bandwidth usage has, for reasons other than expected growth, increased dramatically and continues to do so every year. Over time this usage is going to increase beyond your workforce's limitations, which poses an important challenge for IT teams.
How do you calculate and optimize the use of the bandwidth you have available to ensure your network keeps up with customer and user expectations?
Educate the Most Wasteful
Not only must you deal with an expanding userbase; you also have to field new applications and services your organization needs. This wouldn't be so bad if these apps and services didn't require their own share of bandwidth in order to function, or if file sizes stayed the same across each machine using them. You can't expect users to always know how to minimize content size before sending it, or when not to use the heaviest programs. You need to include information about the consumption of bandwidth when users receive new hardware or software.
For example, one employee has to send a large volume of high-res images. Do they know how to modify those images so that they consume less bandwidth?
Optimize Your Network for Video Consumption
You'd be hard pressed to stop any and all types of video streaming within the business. Video is and will continue to be the most popular medium to consume content. That means that all that video streaming in your business is going to take a slice out of your already dwindling bandwidth. Then when you add video conferencing into the mix, you are looking at a huge amount of your bandwidth being used up. Considering that remote users are becoming more of the norm for businesses, it would be best to make sure you have the bandwidth necessary for present and future video conferencing use.
Gone are the days of simply blocking certain websites and services. That approach only leads to shadow IT, which can potenitally open a huge can of worms as it pertains to information security. However, if you have a few users who tend to use more bandwidth than others, it may be a case of them having too many tabs open in their web browser, hence more videos streaming at once. Generally, politely educating the user on how to properly manage resources on their machine and make them aware that their over-consumption of bandwidth affects others.
When Implementing VoIP, Tread Lightly
Your phone system is also likely eating up alot available bandwidth. This places an even larger load on your network than oversized attachments. There are a number of reasons for this. The main cause is in IP telephony, which requires packets to transfer in a more dedicated fashion than pure data. If you're getting ready to perform a bandwidth usage calculation and your company wants in on VoIP, you need to know what codec the system uses so you can gauge how much bandwidth is on the bubble.You might also want to assess and monitor network performance levels including call quality including jitter, latency, and packets. Yet VoIP is just one of the network bandwidth usage hogs you've got to put up with in your network. Chances are you've also considered videoconferencing apps, such as GoToMeeting and WebEx. You may have also decided adding building security functions like surveillance cameras connected to the network. All of these are drains on your available bandwidth.
This article need not even mention the pressure mobile places on your network as your organization rolls out a BYOD policy — but there it is.
Calculating the bandwidth your network needs is a challenge as old as networking itself. This was when engineers needed to know what sort of bandwidth their customers required at that time, and what their needs might be in the future. They used to be able to make a simple Erlang calculation to determine the network architecture necessary. This won't do as well in a modern network as it may in a light messaging app, though, according to Fast Company.
Instead, make sure the monitoring tool you use can list the applications that are in use and when, and show their network usage over time. Once you've got these metrics, you can sum the average of all the nodes on your network (don't forget to include devices like IP cameras) and multiply that by the total number of nodes on-site. This will give you a decent estimation of your bandwidth usage, but won't take burst usage or excessive MIME attachments into consideration.
Segment Your Network (Properly)
Even in a midsized organization, chances are you're already segmenting your network. This decreases the traffic across the whole network by dividing it logically — by department, for example. You can do this either physically using intelligent switches or by using sub-nets. If you're on a tight budget, sub-netting is your best bet because it only requires a computer configuration change instead of new hardware.