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The most important network performance factors to consider

We’re all doing so much more online, which was true before the pandemic, and now it’s even more clear that businesses rely on their internet connection. Coping with Covid-related demand put enormous stress on many corporate networks, and with new ways of working likely to outlive lockdowns, network performance has become a business-critical issue.

While flexible working was gradually gaining acceptance before 2020, there’s no doubt that Covid gave it a powerful shot in the arm. Home working proved so successful during lockdowns that many businesses are likely to offer it in part-time or “hybrid” form, as part of a standard employee benefits package.

But as we saw during the pandemic, home working is only successful if it’s properly supported. Remote employees need the digital tools and services that allow them to work as productively and efficiently away from the office, as in it.

That almost certainly means video conferencing, and for many businesses has also meant the adoption of cloud-based unified communications solutions. Services that bring video, voice, chat, text and email together in one package, alongside presence, file sharing and other collaboration tools.

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The pace of change

As staff acclimatised to home working, companies that hadn’t already done so replaced desktop productivity tools and finance software (among many others) with cloud equivalents. All in all, the pandemic accelerated cloud adoption by a serious rate of knots.

The amount of data travelling between corporate servers and the cloud increased significantly as a result, but that wasn’t the only factor stretching some company networks to breaking point.

Already hugely important, e-commerce was given a major boost by lockdown closures and social distancing. At the same time, contactless payments replaced cash for many consumers. All of which added hugely to the amount of data corporate networks were forced to deal with.

Lockdown may be all but over (at least for now), and life is returning to something approaching normality. But we all adopted new ways to work, socialise and spend during the pandemic and there’s no turning back now. Our reliance on digital tools, data and networks has never been so profound.

Or as analysts McKinsey puts it, “businesses that once mapped digital strategy in one-to three-year phases must now scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks.”

More innovation on the way

So in a nutshell, more devices are using your corporate network to access more applications. The switch to cloud computing means a huge increase in the amount of data travelling back and forth between distant servers, possibly causing network congestion.

Even if your network performance is as expected, it’s likely to be put under even more pressure in the near future. A new generation of applications based on AI, VR and Internet of Things (IoT) technology is just around the corner. Meanwhile, the ISDN switch off in 2025 will force all businesses to adopt all-IP telephony.

All of this makes the health of your network traffic critical to the success of your business ambitions. Performance issues can’t be allowed to undermine everyday operations and affect the user experience of your staff. In the digital age, downtime isn’t an option, which means measuring network performance is more essential than ever.

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How to measure and improve network performance

So how do you measure the performance of a network, and what network performance metrics should you keep an eye on? The obvious ones are latency, packet loss and disconnections. As far as your IT team is concerned, problems with the network may be signalled by increases in user complaints about slow downloads, lost documents and jittery video conferencing.

You can optimise your network to better deal with this deluge in a number of ways. Investing in extra bandwidth, full fibre connectivity and a private line are obvious solutions.

After that, network performance management solutions can help you identify bandwidth hogs, dropped packets and network latency issues, and do something about them in real time. Malware is not only a security risk but also a threat to network performance, so tight security is a win win. You may also need to check and replace old or broken network devices.

Finally, Quality of Service (QoS) can make sure bandwidth is reserved for critical applications and services. For example, if keeping remote colleagues connected through video is important, QoS can prioritise that data. If your e-commerce site is getting inundated, you can give it the capacity it needs to ensure smooth customer interactions.

The simple truth is, no business can be satisfied with “good enough” network performance anymore. In a new world of remote work and e-commerce, your network has to handle peaks in activity and have the capacity you need to scale at will. Keeping an eye on network performance factors, and prioritising network optimisation, has become a “must-do” for organisations of all sizes.

If you’ve noticed bottlenecks in your internet speeds, unusual and possibly malevolent behaviour on your network, or simply want to know how you can make the most of your existing infrastructure, then don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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