Why bandwidth is not the only consideration for your network

Posted on July 20, 2018

Why Bandwidth

Bandwidth is to networks like cold is to beer. It is seen as the overriding concern in network procurement, critical for Internet and IP WAN connectivity and important for the proper operation of hybrid networks and other common technologies.

And to a large extent, this concern is understandable. The volume of online traffic that we consume is soaring.

According to the authoritative Visual Networking Index from Cisco, global IP traffic is set to top 3.3 zettabytes a year by 2021. If the information were printed in books, the volumes could form a pile stretching from here to Pluto… almost 70 times.

Much of this information will be in bandwidth-hogging formats such as video. Cisco estimates that more than a million minutes of video will travel over the world’s networks every second in 2021.

This will mean global fixed broadband speeds will have to almost double by 2021, reaching 53 Mbps. But bandwidth isn’t everything. In fact, just focusing on bandwidth could mean you end up with a much slower connectivity service than you expect.

Global network

To understand why, it’s worth comparing a global network to a road system. The road system may have national highways, motorways, main roads, streets, and dirt tracks. When you go from A to B, you can take any combination of routes.

And the combination you take will clearly dictate how fast you can go. It’s not the same going from Sydney to Perth via South Australia or Queensland, for example. Nor is it the same to travel on the national highway system or go by backroads.

Similarly, the traffic that arrives at your workers’ desktops may arrive on the data equivalent of a three-lane highway, but if it has had to cross an information outback to get to there then it will likely be a little late.

This is where latency is fast becoming the more important question being asked when considering enterprise-grade internet.

Thus, when you are looking for connectivity, it is not enough to just ask your service provider, “What bandwidth can you offer?”

Instead, ask about latency and how the provider accesses global internet infrastructure. Inquire about the provider’s international, national backbone and regional connections.

High-speed networks

And check to see if the provider is locked into new high-speed network developments such as the Australia-Singapore Cable project. Be wary of companies that rely on older network links. In IT, older is rarely better.

This is especially the case when it comes to connectivity, since older networks are not only usually slower but also tend to be the most highly transited, so your data is competing with everyone else’s for best routes.

Finally, check to see if your provider can go beyond a simple bandwidth-based deal and offer services that can help you use your connections in the most efficient way. One emerging technology to bear in mind is software-defined networking, or SDN.

This can help you use your WAN more efficiently. Around 70 percent of medium and large enterprises in North America are planning to roll out SD networks, or SDWAN, before 2020, precisely to help deal with bandwidth constraints, according to IHS Markit.

If that’s happening in the US, then clearly it would make sense to take network quality issues a lot more seriously here. To learn more about what you should be looking for in your network, get in touch today

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