No business can function without effective connectivity. Yet securing a consistent, fast connection for all users can sometimes be a tricky task. This may be especially true if you're a growing company that's added a large number of users recently, or you've been undergoing a digital transformation that has added new, data-intensive activities to your everyday operations.
But how can you ensure that all your employees are getting the speed and reliability they need without breaking the bank, or spending all your time manually managing networks to ensure they are always optimized? Here are a few key best practices to keep you running reliably.
1. Make sure you have the right Wi-Fi tools
As more people embrace trends such as flexible working and hot-desking, connecting to networks on smartphones, tablets and laptops via Wi-Fi, as opposed to desktop devices that are permanently attached to the wired network, optimizing these networks needs to be a critical first step for any business. As well as ensuring that the right hardware, such as access points, is in place to support wireless connectivity, setting up policies to manage traffic through these devices is essential.
For example, setting up a guest Wi-Fi network is also a useful step that can help you minimize any disruption to your wireless network, especially if your office frequently has visitors. While this is typically used mostly as a security tool to restrict access to key servers, it can also provide speed benefits. By limiting the amount of bandwidth available to guest users, this enables them to browse without impacting on the network performance your regular users experience.
2. Keep the use of mobiles to a minimum
The more devices you have attempting to access your network, the slower it is likely to run, as many people are competing for the same limited bandwidth. One of the biggest culprits of this is personal mobile devices. Most employees may think nothing of connecting their phone to their company's Wi-Fi network even if they will only be using it for personal activities throughout the day, and if everyone is connected through these devices in addition to their work desktop and laptop computers, this can quickly cause congestion.
One way to tackle this is to add additional wireless access points to reduce bottlenecks and ensure the load is spread evenly. But this may not always be the most practical or cost-effective solution. Therefore, businesses should be taking steps to restrict the use of mobile connections within their network to only those devices that are necessary and setting policies to discourage people from adding more devices to the network.
3. Make sure your network is application aware
Naturally, some applications will require much more bandwidth than others, so it's important that your networks, both wired and wireless, are properly configured to identify and prioritize mission-critical applications while relegating those that are less vital to the company to lower importance.
The applications that can clog up your network may not always be as obvious as you think. While it's clear that people streaming high-definition video during work hours will be a waste of resource that needs to be cracked down on, there are others that are not so clear.
For example, file-sharing apps such as Dropbox and iCloud will be constantly trying to auto-sync files by default, and this can cause huge congestion on your network - especially if an operation fails and the applications are repeatedly attempting to sync. Therefore, the ability for a network to recognize and throttle this type of traffic is hugely important.
4. Educate your employees
While there are several technology steps that businesses can take to throttle inappropriate and unimportant network usage, it is far more effective to educate employees about the issue to prevent them from using such services in the first place. While setting out policies that limit the use of bandwidth-heavy sites like YouTube is a good starting point, it will only be successful if employees understand why such actions are being taken and what their responsibilities are when it comes to ensuring the business runs smoothly.
Blocking such activity altogether may not be the best solution - people will always find ways around such blocks and there may well be legitimate uses for these sites. Instead, it pays to set out specific policies on when will be the best time for employees to use certain services, thereby freeing up peak hours for more important activities.
5. Consider using leased lines
Ultimately, there will only be so much a company can do to optimize performance across a business' wider network and eventually, you may find yourself hitting the limits of what the system can cope with - and if this ends up affecting mission-critical applications, this can cause problems. Therefore, businesses should consider the use of dedicated leased lines to ensure that these applications always have a clear, uninterrupted connection that cannot be affected by interference from other users.
This is what leased lines offer. These provide a secure, private connection between two locations that will allow fast speeds for both uploading and downloading. Because the lines are isolated from other parts of the network, businesses do not have to worry about performance being impacted by other users, while also offering benefits such as high availability and control.
Traditionally, leased lines have been viewed as an option that was out of reach for many businesses due to their comparatively high expense. However, this is starting to change as the technology becomes more mainstream, so it's now an option that many more enterprises may be able to consider.