Sub-par network performance can have widespread impacts on your organization and those you serve, making optimal network performance a must, no matter who you are or what you plan to do. Here are the top things we see impacting network performance — and some tips for how to tackle them.
In this day and age, peak network performance is not optional. Neglecting to pay attention to your network and its performance is a massive oversight that can affect countless operations and people.
After all, your organization may struggle to upload or download large files, reach the cloud, collaborate with team members, and more when you have shoddy network performance. Completing essential tasks can become difficult, if not impossible, meaning your users may be less productive and more frustrated due to poor performance and connections, potentially leading to higher turnover rates and missed opportunities. Plus, those problems won’t exist in a vacuum, so those you serve may also experience issues due to inadequate network performance. In short, poor network performance can quickly become a nightmare that costs you more than just a slow connection in the long run.
The good news is that you won’t have to take a stab in the dark to discover the source of sub-par network performance. In fact, there are some (often-interconnected) factors we regularly see affecting network performance — all of which you can address with the help of a network specialist.
Bandwidth is often confused with speed, as they are both used to measure network quality. However, they’re slightly different. While network speed refers to the transfer rate of data from its source to the destination, network bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transferred over an internet connection in a certain amount of time. In this case, bandwidth is calculated in megabits per second (or Mbps).
If you don’t have enough bandwidth, you’ll quickly reach maximum capacity, causing a delay in data delivery. This can lead to many frustrating problems, from web pages that take forever to load to constantly buffering videos — and those problems can occur even if you address all the other potential causes of network performance issues on this list. Unfortunately, none of that will matter if you don’t have good bandwidth from your ISP and to the cloud.
If that seems confusing, try thinking of bandwidth as a tunnel and every piece of data as a car. Come rush hour, it will take a long time for cars to pass through a single-lane tunnel. It doesn’t matter how fancy the car or the gas is, they’ll still get backed up. On the other hand, that same number of cars could easily drive through a seven-lane tunnel. So, just as traffic will move faster with a seven-lane tunnel, downloads and data transfers will occur more quickly in networks with higher bandwidth.
Your wireless connection can also significantly impact your network performance, so you need to take a close look at your wireless setup if you’re experiencing performance issues.
First, you’ll want to examine your access points. These pieces of hardware are responsible for creating a wireless local area network and providing a WiFi signal for devices in a specific area. The exact number of access points required for optimal performance depends on various factors, including your space’s layout, your data and software demands, and your wired network’s state. If you don’t have enough access points, performance may suffer — but that’s not all you have to worry about.
You’ll also need to check for and eliminate co-channel interference (CCI). When two or more access points are on the same frequency channel, they’ll cause interference, weaken the signal, and ultimately cause end-users to experience more performance problems, as all devices must follow a listen-then-talk method. So, if you have three access points on the same channel and one is transmitting data, the other two access points will hear. They’ll defer their data transmissions until the medium is clear and then begin sending data one at a time. As you can imagine, this can cause quite a bit of congestion and significantly reduce network performance.
Additionally, you’ll want to carefully consider your access points’ placement. After all, building materials like brick and metal — as well as devices like microwave ovens — can severely interfere with WiFi signals. It won’t matter how many access points you add if they’re in the wrong spots! That’s why it’s worth investing in a professional site survey before buying more access points. With help from an expert, you can perfectly place your access points in positions where they’ll be most effective and avoid dead zones. Your IT professionals will also be able to help ensure you have proper provisioning and make sure deployment goes off without a hitch.
Beyond access point placement, you need to think about the type of WiFi you use. While WiFi 4, WiFi 5, and WiFi 6 are all still usable, you may run into problems if you have a lot of devices on your network. After all, given how many devices require connections these days and the fact that these WiFi iterations only have two bands (the 2.4gHz and 5gHz bands), it isn’t uncommon for traffic to cause congestion, slowdowns, and network disruptions.
Luckily, WiFi 6E, the newest iteration of WiFi, is here, and it’s transforming the wireless landscape for the better. Not only does WiFi 6E deliver unprecedented reliability and speed to meet users’ increasing demand for connectivity, but it also has the 6-gigahertz (GHz) band and offers wider channels ideal for supporting everything from high-definition video calls to virtual reality. Only WiFi 6E-enabled devices can use this band, while older devices will continue to run on the 2.4gHz and 5gHz bands. The result is less congestion, improved data throughput, fewer network disruptions, more bandwidth, faster network speeds, and lower latency across the entire network — you’re missing out on your potential network performance if you don’t have WiFi 6E!
Just remember that you can’t take full advantage of everything WiFi 6E has to offer if your network isn’t ready. To ensure you get the most out of WiFi 6E, you’ll need to get your structured cabling, access points, and switches up to snuff before implementing WiFi 6E.
3. Structured Cabling
Structured cabling can also impact network performance, especially since the latest wireless connections require proper infrastructure and updated structured cabling to deliver their optimal speeds. So, if you neglect to update your cabling, you may make network upgrades and not see any results due to issues with your cabling infrastructure.
Structured cabling is a type of cabling infrastructure comprising several standardized subsystems that make tracking, managing, troubleshooting, and scaling your cabling (and switches and patch panels) much more straightforward. This modular cabling design also helps eliminate single points of failure and can strengthen your physical IT infrastructure.
You can generally use twisted pair cables (shielded or unshielded) or fiber optic cables. While fiber optic cables cost more than copper cables, they offer a better return on investment and are more future-proof, meaning they can continue to support your network for decades — even as your bandwidth needs increase and new WiFi upgrades become available.
4. Switches and switch ports
In addition to cabling, you must pay attention to your network’s switches to achieve the best possible performance. Switches are pieces of hardware with ports where data cables can be plugged in to connect the switch to a device. Since switches use packet switching to send and receive data, a device plugged into the switch can then communicate with other devices.
However, switch port capacity and channel utilization issues can impact network performance. Network traffic can wind up going to and from a switch and connected device simultaneously, resulting in a collision and packet loss. Traffic bottlenecks can also occur when there isn’t enough switch port capacity or one port uses a lot of bandwidth.
Luckily, thanks to new advancements, such as the industry’s first distributed switch (the Aruba CX 10000 Series Switch with embedded AMD Pensando DPU technology), people are experiencing fewer switch issues and improved network performance.
5. Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) technology is on the rise. By 2025 it’s expected that there will be over 55 billion IoT devices in use! However, more IoT devices means more pressure on your network, making it more urgent than ever to improve your network’s infrastructure.
If you haven’t optimized your network infrastructure, not only can you not make the most of your IoT devices, but your network’s performance may be suffering. In fact, some organizations have been forced to pay cellular networks for additional coverage to keep their IoT devices connected! Fortunately, as long as you have WiFi 6E backed by a quality infrastructure, sufficient bandwidth, and enough access points, your network will be ready to handle a large number of IoT devices.
There’s no doubt that network performance matters no matter who you are or what you do. However, achieving optimal network performance is easier said than done. Even if you’re aware of all the factors that can impact your network’s performance, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which ones are responsible for your own sub-par results, much less resolve them. That’s where help from IT experts, such as those at Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI), can help.
TTI’s team can handle everything from preparing your network for WiFi 6E to upgrading your structured cabling to determining optimal access point placements. We also have plenty of experience with site surveys, switches and IoT and can offer advice, installation services, monitoring, and even troubleshooting to ensure you have the best network performance possible.
Contact our team today to start boosting your network’s performance today!
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