Don’t you just hate when you’re trying to get a project done at work, but your internet connection won’t cooperate? As it’s going in and out, running slowly, or not letting you connect at all, you can’t help but wonder, “Why am I paying for all this bandwidth if I can’t even get my work done? Where is all this bandwidth going?”
The truth is, no matter how much bandwidth your business has access to, there are always going to be apps or processes that “hog” it. But with the increasing popularity of the cloud and mobile devices, you may be noticing that you’re running out of bandwidth even faster than you used to.
The good news is, there are things you can do to figure out exactly who (or what) is hogging your internet. But before I get into that, let’s start at a higher level:
The two tiers of bandwidth usage.
Bandwidth usage is absolutely necessary for your employees to do their jobs. But as people use your corporate bandwidth, two categories start to emerge: approved internet usage and unapproved internet useage.
The difference between these two categories is magnified by the use of personal devices within a company’s network. Many companies today have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy in place, where employees are allowed and/or encouraged to use their own smartphones and tablets for work. There’s nothing wrong with this, but problems can arise when people bring their devices into the office and use corporate bandwidth rather than their 3G networks to do things that are non-work related—this is where the unapproved internet usage stems from.
Once you recognize the two categories of bandwidth usage, you can begin to determine the specific types of services and applications that are using up your broadband.
Approved Internet Usage
There are certain services, applications, and processes that may be approved by your company’s IT department (and may be completely necessary for employees to do their jobs), but still use a large amount of bandwidth. These apps are good for your business overall, but need to be used as efficiently as possible.
One such process is an online backup. Online backups are notorious for eating up huge amounts of broadband, but it’s something that needs to be done. To make sure it’s being done efficiently, try performing online backups outside of office hours, rather than during peak work times. This can help conserve bandwidth.
Voice over IP (VoIP) is another example. VoIP requires a lot of bandwidth, and if too much of your internet is being used by other things, you’ll have poor-quality calls. Check to see if the VoIP service you’re using is bandwidth-friendly, and try putting the VoIP onto a separate internet connection if necessary.
File sharing is a major bandwidth-user as well, but is extremely beneficial to your company because it lets your employees collaborate. Make sure you’re using the right file sharing tools that give you control over what users can do. (Some of the most common file sharing tools—like Dropbox—don’t allow this.) If your shared documents are stored in the cloud, is there a way to save a local copy, as well? This would prevent people from having to use your external bandwidth to access files.
Unapproved Internet Usage
Unapproved internet usage may not necessarily be a direct harm to your business, but it can prevent other, more important tools and services from functioning efficiently, because of the competition for broadband. Again, this usage stems from employees downloading personal files to their mobile devices.
This can include video services, music streaming, and internet radio. For example, employees may download a few episodes of their favorite TV show during the workday (with the company’s broadband) to watch on their commute home. Or, you may allow employees to listen to music while they work, but several of them use streaming services like Spotify or iTunes that can eat up bandwidth.
It’s not bad to be flexible in your internet policies, but you should make sure you’ve weighed the pros and cons of what you allow your employees to do before setting them free with your bandwidth.
Simply identifying these services doesn’t solve the problem.
It’s important to understand that simply identifying which services and applications are using your bandwidth doesn’t solve the problem. To actually come up with a solution, you need to look at what’s being done that’s necessary for your business to function, and what’s being done that isn’t necessary (and is simply wasting your internet connection).
But, just because cloud services make it easy for people to download and use services that eat up your bandwidth, doesn’t mean the cloud is the “bad guy” in all this. Actually, it can be quite the contrary. By putting several of your “big” services in the cloud, you can actually use less broadband than if they were locally hosted.
For example, email—which was once a giant bandwidth user—is now negligible when used in the cloud. Yes, it still uses some bandwidth, but what it does use is small, and that amount will be calculated ahead of time as part of the implementation process. So look at what services you’re using and whether they are locally hosted or cloud-based—it may be beneficial to move some of them to the cloud.
Remember: Not all cloud applications are created equal.
Just because an application is in the cloud, doesn’t mean it will monopolize your internet—it’s all dependant on the application itself. This means you need to take careful consideration in choosing which apps to use and which apps you make available to employees. Encourage employees to download personal files through their own 3G networks, and promote an atmosphere of internet efficiency. These tips, as well as understanding the two tiers of internet usage, will help you take back control of your corporate bandwidth.