Where would you be without your internet connection? For most companies, the answer is simple – you just wouldn’t have a business.
What many people fail to realise is that there’s a sliding scale that you can associate with your internet connection – if it’s slow or unreliable, your business is not working to its optimum level – whereas if it’s quick and robust, you can be sure there are no hurdles standing in the way of your end-users doing the best possible job.
Here, we’ll explore how you can make sure your internet connection isn’t holding your business back – and, by doing so, look at some of the productivity benefits you’ll unlock.
Removing or reducing latency
Latency is somewhat unavoidable. In much the same way that you can’t magically deliver an instantaneous package to the other side of the planet – data transfers are the same. Now, you can get data around the world (often many times over!) in a fraction of a second – but connection delays are often happening much closer to home.
In simple terms, latency is the time it takes for data to be transferred. It’s usually measured in milliseconds – and, although that’s incredibly fast, you’ve got to consider the amount of bandwidth you’re working with to appreciate whether you’re going to run into any problems.
See, when you’re sending a lot of data through low bandwidth connections that may not be designed for lots of data, it can start to backup. Your network will start to discard tiny packets of data if this happens – and while that may not be a problem if you’re sending an email – it can lead to service failure if you’re performing a task that’s sensitive to packet loss – video calling for instance.
While latency is just annoying if it’s preventing you from streaming Netflix smoothly at home – at work it can have a huge impact on your operations. If systems go down because they simply cannot get the data they require in the time they need it, then you’re hit with downtime – and, when you lose core systems, the amount of revenue or productivity you’re losing will stack up at an alarming rate.
So, what can you do to make sure your network is moving smoothly and avoiding these issues?
Optimising maintenance with SD WAN
IT systems will need maintenance – and, occasionally, they will need hands-on support. The trouble is, you won’t always have those hands close by. Keeping an in-house IT team can be extremely expensive (and just downright unobtainable for many businesses) and finding a managed service provider that’s within a few miles of your office is often just not practical – especially if you want to make sure you’re working with a company who can meet your needs exactly.
In instances like these, bringing an SD WAN system into your business is a shrewd move. SD WAN – or, to use its full name – a Software Defined Wide Area Network system, is a system overlay that works neatly with every device you have on your network – wherever in the world that device is located. A SD WAN system allows you to perform a huge range of tasks with your hardware that would ordinarily need an engineer on-site to perform.
Rather than wait for your managed service provider to get a staff member to your site, they’ll simply log-in to your management portal and, from there, they’ll be able to perform a huge range of network management tasks. From integrating new devices, to adjusting class of service settings according to your immediate need.
You can’t always click your fingers and have an IT specialist by your side immediately – but, with an SD WAN system, you can at least be certain that your network engineers can be hands on with your infrastructure within seconds – even if they’re on the other side of the globe.
Controlling data with MPLS
We’ve talked previously about bandwidth – the limit to the amount of data that can be passed at any one time through your network or internet connection. Now, it’s very rare for your internet connection to be a choke point for bandwidth – and, in actual fact, around 95% of bandwidth issues occur within your own network – whether that’s through poor design – or simply because data is being poorly managed through the infrastructure.
This is where MPLS comes into play. An MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) service is used to identify different types of data moving across your network, before labelling it to ensure the system deals with it according to a series of priorities that suit your business.
So, for instance – if your customer relationship management tool underpins what your workforce does in the day then it can’t be offline. However, if your internal email system is less important to delivering your core business model – then it won’t impact your bottom line if it’s slightly slower than normal. In a case like this – data that’s required by your CRM system will be prioritised over email data. In a traditional network setup, data from both these applications would be carried along the same path with the same priority – so, you could stand a chance of having a perfectly working email system with a slow CRM system.
MPLS works by identifying the labels that are attached to data and making sure that data takes the most efficient route to its destination. This route will change dynamically too – so you can be confident that your most important business data is always going to get the where it needs to be.
As a result, companies generally see productivity boosted with their end users. With a 20-person team, 10 minutes of lost productivity each per working day adds up to over 800 lost working hours every year. When you’re sitting at your desk, a few seconds of lost time doesn’t feel like a great deal – but when they add up, it can it can be the kind of lost productivity that might be the difference between hitting budgets or missing – or indeed, the whole company succeeding or falling short.