When planning a new network, or when diagnosing a problem on an existing one, a common question that’s raised concerns the impact that certain applications may have on overall performance. In some cases, solving the problem can be as simple as identifying and putting an end to (or just cutting back) the use of certain bandwidth-intensive applications. So, the question, then, is what applications may actually be the source of the problem?
The following article works to identify and break down the applications that will most certainly kill your network, but also provides suggestions as to what you can do about them. While every application certainly isn’t covered, our experience working with network administrators around the world has helped us identify the most common problems.
The Common Culprits
YouTube Video (standard video) — On average, a sustained 10-minute YouTube video will consume about 500kbs over its duration. Most video players try to store the video (buffer ahead) locally as fast as your network can take it. On a shared network, this has the effect of bringing everything else on your network to its knees. This may not be a problem if you are the only person using the Internet link, but in today’s businesses and households, that is rarely the case.
Microsoft Service-Pack Downloads — Updates such as Microsoft service packs use file transfer protocol (FTP). Generally, this protocol will use as much bandwidth as it can find. The end result is that your VoIP phone may lock up, your video’s will become erratic, and Web surfing will come to a crawl.
Keeping Your Network Running Smoothly While Handling Killer Apps
There is no magic pill that can give you unlimited bandwidth, but each of the following solutions may help. However, they often require trade offs.
- The obvious solution is to communicate with other members of your household or business when using bandwidth intensive applications. This is not always practical, but, if other users agree to change their behavior, it’s usually a surefire solution.
- Deploy a fairness device to smooth out those rough patches during contentious busy hours — Yes, this is the NetEqualizer News blog, but with all bias aside, these types of technologies often work great. If you are in an office sharing an Internet feed with various users, the NetEqualizer will keep aggressive bandwidth users from crowding others out. No, it cannot create additional bandwidth on your pipe, but it will eliminate the gridlock caused by your colleague in the next cubicle downloading a Microsoft service pack. Yes, there are other devices on the market that can enforce fairness, but the NetEqualizer was specifically designed for this mission. And, with a starting price of around $1400, it is a product small businesses can invest in and avoid longer term costs (see option 3).
- Buy more bandwidth — In most cases, this is the most expensive of the different solutions in the long term and should usually be a last resort. This is especially true if the problems are largely caused by recreational Internet use on a business network. However, if the bandwidth-intensive activities are a necessary part of your operation, and they can’t afford to be regulated by a fairness device, upgrading your bandwidth may be the only long-term solution. But, before signing the contract, be sure to explore options one and two first.
As mentioned, not every network-killing application is discussed here, but this should head you in the right direction in identifying the problem and finding a solution. For a more detailed discussion of this issue, visit the links below.