You can have the fastest internet speed and the most advanced IT equipment, but if your bandwidth is insufficient, you risk bottlenecking your business.
What is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is the capacity through which data can be transmitted. Not to be confused with internet speed, networks with higher bandwidth are able to send a larger number of data packets than those with a smaller bandwidth.
Imagine your business’s internet bandwidth as a motorway:
Driving a long journey on a single carriageway will take far longer because there is less capacity to accommodate the road traffic – the same applies to receiving packets of data into your network.
Conversely, making a long journey on the motorway is often more straight-forward. With wider lanes, there is more room for traffic. In IT terms, this means that your IT systems can draw more data packets per second due to larger bandwidth.
In layman’s terms; it’s not the speed limit of the road that matters, it is the amount of lanes it has – are there enough lanes for the amount of traffic you need to operate your business? And if you do anything in the cloud, you will need to factor bandwidth into your decision-making process.
You’ve likely experienced low bandwidth at some point with your home broadband setup.
If too many devices are connected to the internet and transferring large amounts of data (i.e. downloading large movie or video game files), the broadband speed is throttled for each user.
This is because too much demand is being placed on the line that delivers your broadband connection.
Why Does Bandwidth Matter?
For the same reason that it’s irritating to face internet slowdowns in leisure time – it’s inconvenient.
But for a business that relies on fast broadband in order to function, it can be far more than inconvenient – it’s the difference between a fully operational business or your business running with very limited capacity.
For example, long wait times for web pages or files to load has an impact on productivity. Meanwhile, if your business runs a VoIP telephone system that relies on the internet, any considerable impact on voice quality or a lagging connection can cause damage to business continuity.
It can also be incredibly frustrating if you’ve invested thousands of pounds in the fastest broadband and the best IT hardware, only to find that your bandwidth cannot support your changes in infrastructure.
So, what do you need to think about when it comes to bandwidth and your business?
Review Your IT Strategy
If bandwidth is insufficient, performance can take a nosedive, damaging your productivity, morale, and client reputation as a result. Essentially, bandwidth insufficiencies can cause alarmingly similar effects to that of downtime due to sluggish performance.
Therefore, bandwidth management must be considered as part of your IT strategy. Factors to consider when taking bandwidth into account include the quality and quantity of your bandwidth and crucially, the number of concurrent internet users in your business.
Furthermore, with the Internet of Things (IOT) expanding, and 63 million devices projected to be joining enterprise networks per second by 2020, you must consider the following question – is your business prepared for the necessary additional bandwidth?
You must also consider any major wholesale changes to your IT architecture.
Changes to IT Systems
Implementing new software, applications, or operating systems could have an impact on your bandwidth, depending on their requirements. It is essential that you speak to your MSP ahead of any proposed changes to your IT systems.
A move to cloud computing will certainly have a direct effect on your bandwidth due to its ‘always-online’ architecture – if your business is constantly uploading new files or data to the cloud, it will use more bandwidth than if you were working locally.
Insufficient bandwidth will cause significant business continuity issues if not addressed, so it is crucial that your business considers this before implementation of new IT solutions.
Increased bandwidth usage is not a reason to avoid upgrading your IT systems, however. To accommodate increased business use of the internet, you may wish to consider a leased line.
Leased Line – Broadband for Your Business
Most homes receive their internet via ‘fibre to the cabinet’ (FTTC), with their homes linked to the nearest broadband cabinet via copper wires.
If you run a business with reliance on IT, however, it is recommended that you receive your broadband via a dedicated leased line through ‘fibre to the premises’ (FTTP).
Data can therefore flow directly to your business through superfast fibre cables rather than copper wires. Crucially, it also means that you’re not sharing bandwidth with other businesses or users.
With a leased line, you can select the optimal internet speed and bandwidth for your business, and your business alone.
It is also recommended that you consider a backup line for contingency purposes.
Ultimately, modern IT solutions are only as fast as the broadband behind them. Investment in bandwidth is investment in business continuity – and is just as important as new hardware and software.