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April 14, 2020 | Dominic Romeo

Can Your Network Bandwidth Support Your Remote Workers and Customers?

Today, more people are staying at home to work remotely and shop online, rather than going to physical offices or shops. That means your remote workforce and customers are putting more stress on your network. Soon, the health of your business will depend on your network’s ability to handle this surge in traffic. Slow response times or, worse, system crashes, will cost you in employee productivity and business revenues. It’s important to have the network bandwidth to handle this influx. In this post, we review the questions you should ask of your current network.

Do you have the network bandwidth to handle the rise in traffic?

Determining how much network bandwidth you might need depends on multiple factors. One is the number of workers and customers who will access the network. Another is what applications they’ll use and what type of content and transactions will travel over the network.

Fortunately, cloud applications and services – software-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service, etc. – don’t require large amounts of bandwidth. Verizon estimates cloud computing services use just 4-5 megabits per second (Mbps), about the same as instant messaging and file sharing applications. On the other hand, an email attachment might use 15 Mbps, while a voice-over-IP (VoIP) video call takes 28 Mbps.

To ensure that your customers and employees will be able to successfully access your web site and work applications, you’ll need to ask some questions about your network and your network provider. Following are four key questions to evaluate your preparedness.

Also read: Connectivity is Key to Powering Your Multicloud Strategy

Is your service provider prepared to significantly increase your network bandwidth?

The first step is to ask your service provider about its capability to quickly scale up your bandwidth. With so many companies moving to work-from-home models, some providers are struggling to meet the demand. Usage of VPNs, which connect workers to their corporate networks or cloud resources, is expected to skyrocket, for example. (VPN vendor Atlas predicts a 150% increase in March alone.) That increased usage threatens to degrade network performance.

Providers with multiple connections to other network providers can offer more consistently high quality performance. The more direct, or on-net, connections, the better the service. Many TierPoint data centers, for example, have five or more on-net providers to ensure there are alternate routes for traffic and give you more choice in network services. For instance, if your web site or employees handle videos or other large files, you may want content delivery network (CDN) services. CDNs serve as content proxies at the edge of networks to enable content to be closer to the customer, reducing bandwidth and increase responsiveness. While your provider might not have CDN services, an on-net provider might. Also ask about physical upgrades to your network. How quickly could they get you a bigger circuit, for instance?

Can you burst your network bandwidth, if needed?

Because bandwidth needs often change depending on time of day or season, more companies are using burstable bandwidth. With burstable bandwidth, the customer pays for a base bandwidth equal to the average network usage, but contracts to pay extra for on-demand bursts during peak times. This enables a company to avoid overpaying for bandwidth that it doesn’t need on a regular basis, but still be able to meet sudden surges in demand.

Do you have network redundancy to ensure resiliency?

Just as data backups help protect against the loss of production data, backup power sources, coolers, cabling, routers, and internet connections protect your network from crashing. Redundancy helps ensure that no single equipment failure can take down your network. If one power source fails, a backup takes over. If one network provider goes down, a connection to a second provider handles the traffic.

Multi-homing, or connecting to multiple Tier 1 and 2 network providers is a type of network redundancy. TierPoint’s data centers, for example, have multihomed network infrastructures that include telco-provided circuits and high bandwidth optical fiber connections. That helps ensure consistently high bandwidth.

Is your overall infrastructure prepared for growth?

When evaluating your infrastructure and that of your provider, consider what size your organization expects to be in three to five years. How many customers and employees may be needing network access or hitting on your web server? What types of applications and services are in your road map to offer in the future? What might your peak demand look like in three years?

Many of those questions can’t be answered without expert input. TierPoint’s network services consultants have substantial knowledge of network design, planning, and service options. Contact us to learn about improving your network performance and positioning your business to scale.

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