What are your end users’ experiences? Are they experiencing slow internet speeds? Are they unable to back up files or download updates? Do their video calls freeze up or have poor sound or image quality? Understanding what is happening in your current network is the first step in stretching your offices’ limited bandwidth.
Understanding Your Network
Diagnostic network tools can show how traffic is flowing inside your LAN, as well as externally to your WAN, SaaS application, or internet. You can see where your data is flowing smoothly and where it is getting hung up. End-to-end visibility of your network allows you to examine traffic from individual users all the way to their applications and back. You can isolate problems to a very granular level and address issues as straightforward as a cut LAN cable. Regular traffic monitoring is key to keeping abreast of your network performance.
Tools can be used to determine if there is an issue with the internet service provider (ISP) routing as well. Your carrier might have network constraints, so instead of routing your NGO directly to the nearest cable landing, your connection traverses the continent before reaching your office. These added stops might be causing your common productivity applications like Microsoft Office and Skype to start running painfully slow.
Evaluating Your Local Business Needs
Once you see where the traffic is being constricted or blocked, now what? You might be tempted to quickly implement a blanket fix without assessing the business need of that data. For example, a sudden increase in video usage might be choking your office connection in Nigeria. If you assume your staff is wasting time on personal videos, you may block all traffic to YouTube. However, a call to the office reveals that they have just hired 20 new employees who are going through orientation using a series of training videos on YouTube. With this new knowledge, you might actually decide to prioritize traffic to YouTube, rather than blocking it.
Maximizing Your Bandwidth with Traffic Shaping
The beauty of finding the correct network tool is the ability to shape the traffic to meet your local business needs and control your bandwidth usage. Access can easily be modified based on the end user, device, or application. You are able to prioritize mission-critical or latency-impacting applications over others. One common example is prioritizing video calls via Skype or Zoom over data backups or application updates. Backups can easily be redirected for after hours when there is more bandwidth available.
If your bandwidth is still slow after you shape it, double check what is happening on your ISP’s network. Is there latency or are there additional “hops” that are slowing down your traffic on their network? You can run traceroutes and share results with your ISP to prove what is happening with your traffic. Ideally, you will have a “termination for cause” clause in your contract that will enable you to get out of your contract if your bandwidth is slower than negotiated.
If you are interested in procuring the right networking tools to maximize your bandwidth, we suggest you consider Cisco Meraki’s product line. Meraki technology provides full end-to-end visibility of your network, including your cellular components. Because we know many NGOs can’t afford to try equipment they’re not 100% sure will serve them, you can use our free trial service before committing. When you do find the exact tools you need, Cisco Meraki offers NGOs significant discounts on equipment and licensing, exclusively through Telecom4Good. Read more about how you can save 50-75% on the equipment you need with our discount.
Written by Kathy Panzl