Why bandwidth is not the only consideration for your network
Posted on July 20, 2018
Bandwidth is seen as the overriding concern in network procurement; it's critical for Internet and IP-WAN connectivity and important for the proper operation of hybrid networks and other common technologies.
To a large extent, this concern is understandable, as the volume of online traffic we consume continues soaring. According to the 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 one million minutes of video will travel over the world’s networks every second in 2021.
This means global fixed broadband speeds will need to nearly double by 2021, reaching 53 Mbps. But bandwidth isn’t everything. In fact, focussing solely on bandwidth could mean you end up with a much slower connectivity service than you expect.
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.
Of course, the combination you take will dictate how quickly you arrive at your destination. Going from Sydney to Perth via South Australia or Queensland, for example, isn't the same, nor is travelling on the national highway system or going by back roads.
Similarly, the traffic arriving at your employees' desktops may arrive on the data equivalent of a three-lane highway, but if it's need to cross an information outback to arrive, 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. When you are looking for connectivity, it's no longer enough to ask “what bandwidth can you offer?”
It's also a good idea to check if the provider is locked into new high-speed network developments like 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 the best routes.
Finally, see if your provider can go beyond a simple bandwidth-based deal and offer services that will 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 per cent of medium and large enterprises in North America are planning to roll out SD networks, or SD-WAN, before 2020, precisely to help deal with bandwidth constraints, according to IHS Markit.
If that’s already happening in other parts of the world, it makes sense that SD-WAN will soon play a much larger role in network quality in Australia. To learn more about what you should be looking for in your network, get in touch today.