More Traffic Requires More Capacity, or Does it?

By:  |  Category: Blog Thursday, November 21st, 2019  |  No Comments

Our use of the internet—and the sheer volume of data we send and receive over it—has grown in ways we could never imagine.

Think back to the glory days of the good ol’ Commodore 64 in the mid 80s, when total global internet traffic reached 15GB per month. By 2014, we saw the average user consuming the same amount. And according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, more IP traffic will cross global networks in 2020 than in all prior “internet years” combined—up to the end of 2016—and we can expect more than 28 billion devices and connections to be online.

It’s natural to think that, just as the need for storage capacity increases with additional data, the influx of traffic requires more network capacity. But, that’s not always the case.

If the increase in traffic is for legitimate business reasons (like transferring large business files between regional offices) then yes, you’ll want to invest in additional infrastructure to accommodate your growing business needs and avoid lost productivity or any negative implications to the customer experience.

But, if the culprit is Michael in engineering, downloading games at the office (again), then there are other, less costly ways to address that situation. It becomes a matter of ensuring the right traffic is flowing through the network (perhaps an application ban makes sense) and is given the right priority through a quality of service (QoS) policy, rather than increasing the capacity.

So how do you determine what that traffic is, so you can properly address your capacity needs? That’s where network capacity planning comes into play.

There are many ways to approach it, but the goal is generally the same—make better infrastructure decisions, avoid costly downtime, create a better user experience, and never run out of network bandwidth despite your ever-changing business requirements. You need to understand the maximum capability of current resources and the amount of new resources needed to cater to future requirements.

At a minimum, you’ll want to assess:

●       Current potential capacity

●       Current traffic utilization

●       Type of traffic flowing through the network

●       Near- and long-term business plans to evaluate future needs

Assessing current potential network capacity (your bandwidth baseline)

This is the easiest step because the capacity is fixed, regardless of utilization. The total capacity is the total available bandwidth (the maximum rate that information can be transferred), so if you have a 3Mbps WAN circuit installed between two sites, this is its potential capacity.

This information is usually readily available if your network documentation is up to date. If it’s not, EnhancedTECH can help you with mapping and documentation tools.

Assessing current traffic utilization (quantitative data)

In this step, you want to establish the degree to which devices, applications, protocols, services, etc. are generating traffic today.

Gathering and assessing this data has traditionally involved a lot of manual, error-prone tasks, expensive equipment, and in some cases, a period of downtime to install tools on the network. But some of the newer network management systems take the headaches and guesswork out of mapping, documenting, monitoring, and tracking network performance and utilization, making it a much faster, less intrusive, and more accurate process.

Assessing the type of traffic flowing through the network (qualitative data)

Arguably the most important step, what you discover here will help you understand what’s causing your network congestion or traffic spikes, and if there’s a legitimate business reason for it or not.

But as more and more traffic—both inside and outside the network—becomes encrypted, this step gets more and more challenging. Until recently, the network data necessary for this assessment was lagging. Based on static, historical reports, this method now lacks the deep, real-time insights needed to understand the types of traffic flowing through today’s networks. Fortunately, this situation is now rapidly changing with the help of machine learning.

Near- and long-term business plans to evaluate future needs

In this final step, you want to consider upcoming projects, programs, and business plans that could tax your existing capacity. Are you planning to increase your employee base significantly? Branching out to more locations? Rolling out new applications? Getting ready for mergers or acquisitions?

Using your current and historical utilization data, you can estimate, plan, and budget for future requirements.

Making an informed decision

When you have the results of your capacity planning in hand, what comes next is up to you. It may make sense to prioritize a network infrastructure upgrade, or optimize the network with QoS policies, or implement (and enforce!) application bans once and for all.

Whatever you decide, you’ll have all the information you need to do so with confidence. Give EnhancedTECH a call if you need assistance with network planning at 714-970-9330.

Source: Auvik

Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-computer-contemporary-dark-270435/

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