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Tip of the Week: How Bandwidth Works (and Why It Matters)

Tip of the Week: How Bandwidth Works (and Why It Matters)

Businesses require a lot of their Internet connections, especially if they’re using technologies like VoIP, screen-sharing, and/or webinar platforms. If you’re looking to incorporate these features, you need to be sure you have enough bandwidth to support them. We’re looking at a few reasons that your bandwidth matters, and how to tell if you have enough for your needs.

Before we go any further, it is important that you have an idea of how bandwidth functions.

Bandwidth Does Not Equal Speed

This is a common enough misconception that can be cleared up with a relatively simple analogy.

Picture a fast food restaurant, with a school bus filled with hungry student athletes looking for a post-game meal. As this team is very coordinated, they all want the same things, allowing the crew member behind the register to take all of their orders at a consistent rate. While it may take longer, all of the team members will have their order taken. 

Now, imagine that the fast food franchise has a second person at the registers, equally proficient as the first employee. While the speed at which orders can be taken hasn’t technically increased, more orders can be taken at once, so the student athletes will make it through the line faster.

Bandwidth works in effectively the same way as the registers in this scenario. It isn’t that greater bandwidth moves data any faster, it’s that greater bandwidths can move more data at once. 

This means that you can also invest in too much bandwidth. Let’s return to our fast food franchise for a moment. If you have someone ready and waiting on each of three registers, but only one customer, you are over-investing in your franchise’s “bandwidth.”

In other words, you’d be spending more money than you needed to, which is a pretty blatant (and shockingly common) problem for businesses.

The Influence of Bandwidth

The amount of bandwidth that your business has access to can have a considerable impact on your operations, by effectively limiting the amount of tasks that can be performed simultaneously - at least, without issue.

Different common business tasks will use different amounts of bandwidth, and most of them use a minimal amount of bandwidth. Then, there are the heavy hitters - Voice over Internet Protocol usage, webinars, and backup processes - that will use considerably more.

Fortunately, you can take steps to minimize the impact that insufficient bandwidth can have on your business’ operations. For example, you could throttle some of your less-important tasks, thereby saving more bandwidth for more critical ones, or simply scheduling as many of the processes that require a lot of bandwidth to take place after hours. Uploading a backup is a good example of this, as it requires a lot of bandwidth, so performing it after hours means that you won’t be interrupting other tasks.

Of course, one of the most helpful things to do that helps you optimize your available bandwidth is to find out how much bandwidth you actually have available.

Evaluating Your Network

When it comes to evaluating your bandwidth needs, there are a few different routes that you can take. There are speed tests available online that can give you an estimate of your bandwidth by comparing it to your approximate network traffic. One resource worth using is Speedtest.net.

However, if you are considering implementing VoIP or the other processes we mentioned above, there are other considerations you should look into, including:

  • Mean Opinion Score (MOS)
    The MOS was once entirely generated via feedback and opinions from human users. Specifically to VoIP, it is now generated based on an algorithmic analysis of three different metrics (those metrics being listening quality, conversational quality, and transmission quality) to give a score between 0-and-5 (or incoherent-to-excellent). I know I don’t need to tell you that you want your business to have high-quality calls.

  • Quality of Service (QoS)
    Much like the MOS, the QoS of your VoIP solution is an important consideration in how successful you can consider your implementation of VoIP to be. Bandwidth plays a considerable role in defining the QoS.

  • Jitter
    This is the term used to identify delays in data packet delivery to a network, recognizable by sounds that are choppy or lag. You should be aiming for minimal jitter, which translates to consistent packet delivery.

  • Latency (Ping Rate)
    This is the term to describe the milliseconds-long delay that results from information moving from point-to-point. Ideally, this number is small and consistent, but this isn’t always the case. If a ping takes an abnormally long time to reach somewhere on the Internet and come back to your network, you have a MS spike, and potentially, a problem.

  • Codec
    Whatever kind of broadcasting you may be engaged in (including VoIP), some data compression can be helpful, but swiftly becomes an issue if the audio quality is no longer sufficient. For instance, if you were using VoIP, you could compress the call to limit the bandwidth used, but this means the quality would suffer, and make the call harder to understand. Of course, a little compression may not be an issue, so to keep it to a minimum, make sure you have sufficient bandwidth to accommodate peak usage times.

We Can Help with a Network Evaluation!

415 IT has the skill to not only identify potential bandwidth issues, we can help you to resolve them as well! To learn more about what we can do to help your business function efficiently, give our team a call at (415) 295-4898!

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