Internet pages taking a while to load? Struggling to pick up your email? Corporate Dropbox downloads taking forever? Quick – reboot the router; shout at the IT department; buy more bandwidth…
Or you could have a look at what’s going on inside your network. Here’s are the top 4 reasons we find customer networks going slow:
- Uncoordinated updates – every PC on the network will be wanting to update itself: from Microsoft for Windows and Office, from your AV provider, from Oracle for Java, from Adobe for Flash and so on and so forth. If you’ve left the PCs’ settings on default, each machine will go out to the internet for every update, mostly at the same time. Going slow on a Tuesday? That’s Microsoft’s patches. Get your IT people to put in a local update server, or at least use a policy to set the PCs to download updates in the middle of the night.
- Users’ own technology – how many of your staff have their own kit (phones, tablets, smartwatches etc) connected to your office WiFi? Are they downloading patches too? iOS 9.3 is a 1.4Gb download – ten people trying to pick that up as soon as it comes out will saturate a typical SME 8Mb/s DSL line for four-and-a-half hours. Are they uploading pictures to Facebook? The same typical DSL line will have far slower upload speed – but that speed determines how your email flows, and how responsive websites feel. It doesn’t take much Instagramming to clog it up. Either stop people connecting their own devices, or ask your IT team to segregate their bandwidth so that work takes priority.
- User behaviour – work and play. First off, look at how people are working and what they’re doing. If your email is in the cloud, and people are sending large Powerpoint decks, or high-resolution images, or video clips to each other in what they see as internal email, all of that is going out – and coming in – on your poor overworked internet line. If they’re streaming video – training sessions, instructions, promo clips – it only takes 4 people watching in HD to use up all your bandwidth (same typical DSL). At the same time, remember that these days people bring their domestic habits to work with them. Not just watching videos or Facebooking at lunchtime, but often installing peer-to-peer clients like Bittorrent and Limewire on their office PC. These can use up all your upload bandwidth easily. They also present a terrific security risk, since a lot of peer-to-peer downloads are infected with malware, and most of them are copyright breaches. Get your IT team to monitor your bandwidth use, and scan user PCs for unauthorised software. Set clear policies for business use to mitigate bandwidth consumption, and make it clear that installing P2P software is not permitted.
- Active malware – the main function of malware (apart, these days, from ransomware) is to take control of your PCs in order to a) send them adverts and b) use them as part of large “botnets” to send spam or carry out distributed denial-of-service attacks. Infected PCs will be both receiving and sending data constantly; it’s the sending that will particularly affect your general browsing experience at work. Remember that most firewalls default to allowing all outbound traffic, so once you’re infected, your firewall offers no protection. Step up your anti-malware protections, and implement more aggressive firewall rules.
You may still need to buy more bandwidth, as normal business use becomes ever more data-intensive, but at least when you do, you’ll actually feel the benefit.