When was the last time your network performance was checked?

For many small businesses the answer is probably “never”.

That’s a problem because, in our experience, issues with network performance have a significant impact on productivity.

Most small businesses today rely on three main forms of network connection:

  1. An internal wired network providing 1000Mbit* speed.
  2. An internal wireless network providing around 100Mbit*speed.
  3. An Internet connection providing around 10Mbit* speed.

(* millions bits per second raw performance, with the actual transfer speed normally being around one tenth of that speed and measured in millions of bytes per second.)

As you can see, the actual connection speed varies dramatically, and roughly in factors of 10. Wireless networking is very convenient and provides huge benefits in allowing workers to be mobile, particularly when using portable devices, but the performance advantage of a wired connection is dramatic and we always recommend that high-speed wired connections are made available wherever possible.

If you find that your software applications sometimes seem to slow down, particularly at busy times, then we recommend that the network performance be checked!

Some of our key tips to avoid network performance issues are –

Check wired equipment – network switches and routers vary dramatically in performance and quality, and they run software that needs to be updated over time. We recommend that you confirm that your equipment provides 1000Mbit connections to all devices, that the firmware is being updated regularly (an annual check is normally fine), and that the design of the network ensures that connections are not being split or shared unnecessarily.

Check wireless equipment – wireless network equipment also varies dramatically, and in many cases domestic grade equipment is used to reduce costs with the consequence that performance and coverage are poor. Wireless networks also provide shared rather than dedicated bandwidth, meaning that if your access point can deliver 300Mbit/s and you have ten wireless devices then your are likely to average only 30Mbit/s per device. We recommend that you review the equipment you use now and ensure that it is suitable for the number of wireless devices and for the characteristics of your office.

Wired over wireless – wherever possible, use wired connections in favour of wireless, even for notebook computers. The ten fold speed increase will be immediately apparent, and there is no reason why using wireless at other times will cause any problems.

Cloud hosting – when considering moving your data to a hosted environment also consider the implications for your Internet connection. It is quite likely that a different Internet connection will be needed, and the cost of that connection may be far higher than any savings you hope to make.

Cabling – when your network performance is checked you mind find that errors are detected during testing. There can be various causes for this but the most common relate to cabling. It can be difficult and costly to identify and then fix the offending cabling, but it is necessary as issues with cabling can impact on the performance of the network as a whole.

 

Network performance testing is often completely overlooked by I.T. service providers, and is perhaps the last thing checked when customers report performance issues. Our view is that checking network performance is an easy and cost effective way to significantly improve software application performance, and it should be something that is done on a regular basis, before performance issues are suffered and reported.

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