It’s perhaps one of the most common questions we’re asked. How do I right-size internet connectivity for my business?
The connectivity market is a crowded one. There are lots of providers promoting lots of solutions, some offering bundles of connectivity and calls, others offering stand-alone broadband services. You could be forgiven for getting positively bamboozled by the volume of deals on offer.
Yet internet connectivity is the lifeblood of your business. Without it, your business simply can’t function.
With more and more of our applications moving to the cloud, local installs of finance, HR or ERP applications are quickly becoming a relic of the past.
If your broadband connection isn’t up to speed, operational productivity and efficiency in your business will suffer, no doubt about it.
How to right-size internet connectivity for your business is a key question. But before you can do that, ask yourself this.
- Have you ever seen a dashboard that shows you the performance of your internet links?
- Do you know what level of network uptime/downtime you have?
- Do you know when your internet connectivity last dropped?
- Do you know the average rate of packet loss across your links?
- What will I do if a JCB digs through the fibre cable outside my office building and takes my internet connectivity down for an extended period of time?
More often than not, organisations contract services that are insufficient for the networking demands placed on them. Admittedly, connectivity costs have plummeted in recent years, but nobody wants to pay for something they don’t need.
Before diving into the key factors to consider when right-sizing internet connectivity, let’s first understand the difference between speed and bandwidth.
Difference between speed and bandwidth
The speed of your link is the bit rate at which data is transferred and this is measured in megabits per second.
Small businesses with single digit users or home workers might be using a connection of 100 Mbps in size. This is a shared connection and might be sufficient to perform basic web browsing and email.
Larger organisations with hundreds of users could have multiple links of up to 1000 Mbps or 1 Gigabit per second and could be using these links to do everything from transferring large multi-media files, accessing hundreds of cloud-based applications or running latency-sensitive applications such as video conferencing and telephony.
Bandwidth on the other hand is the amount of speed available for use. For example, Telcom might deliver a 300 Mbps service across a link capable of carrying up to 1 Gbps.
And this brings us to an important point.
The ‘tail’ of the service or the size of the actual pipe delivered to your premises largely determines the cost of that service.
The tail could deliver a speed of up to 1 Gbps but I might only contract a service for 300 Mbps. Therefore, the incremental cost of moving from a 300 Mbps service to 1 Gbps service would be relatively small.
And there’s no point having a super high-speed link if the router hanging off the back of it cannot handle the speed of the line. It will automatically aggregate it downwards to the capacity of the device and you lose the benefit of the additional speed. So there may be some network infrastructure investment required to help you get the most from your connections.
And this brings us to another very important point: security.
With an ever-evolving threat landscape with malware such as ransomware, DDoS and phishing attacks growing in frequency, it’s critical to ensure that your internet links are secure with enterprise-grade firewalling technology.
This is equally true for home workers using home internet to access corporate resources. These links are not as secure as they need to be and should be delivered with static IP addresses that can be secured before they access corporate computing resources.
Let’s take a look at the key factors you need to consider when selecting a service provider and service.
Factors to consider when buying connectivity
1. Ask your existing supplier if they can provide a performance report on your existing connections.
Look for things like network uptime, speed, packet loss, frequency of bursts (times when you exceeded the speed or bandwidth committed to you by your provider). If you don’t have this data, move on to point 2 of our list.
Needless to say, this is something Telcom provide to clients as a matter of course, and these reports assist greatly with network capacity planning.
2. How many staff will be using the network?
Basic broadband connections are only suitable for micro businesses with five users or less. With speeds of up to 100 Mbps, they’ll allow users to do basic browsing and email. But we have to caveat that by saying five power users sending huge files across the internet will definitely need a bigger pipe. And that brings us on to our next point.
3. What is the profile of network traffic traversing your connections?
This is critical in the context of cloud computing and ‘as a Service’ applications. In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion in the adoption of cloud-hosted applications and almost all application providers are now providing hosted versions of their software. From Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams to graphic design programs such as Canva and ERP systems from Sage, use of these applications is predicated on good quality connections with high speed and bandwidth.
Similarly, organisations working in sectors such as broadcast media, gaming, entertainment, architecture and construction exchange huge files on a daily basis and require their IT team to right-size internet connectivity to carry that traffic.
4. Do you run bandwidth-sensitive applications such as voice which can’t afford latency or delay on the connection?
As collaboration grows in popularity thanks to applications such as online conferencing and companies use SIP trunks to carry voice traffic, these applications have to be deployed with quality of service (QoS). When chatting to a customer on a Microsoft Team call, you can’t afford to have the connection drop in and out just because Mary in the office next door is in the process of sending out a large file to a colleague in Cork.
This means having sufficient bandwidth to accommodate latency-sensitive traffic and ensuring that these traffic types are prioritised with guaranteed bandwidth to deliver a quality online experience to users.
5. What is the typical size of my daily backup?
Daily backups are a critical component of your business continuity. Unexpected events can happen at any time. Just ask the HSE who were hit with a massive ransomware attack recently.
Being able to perform a full backup and daily incremental backup is key. Cloud backup solutions have also grown in popularity. And rather than taking backups on tape and storing them offsite in a secure location, organisations are backing up to data centres. The bandwidth required to upload the data has to be taken into consideration.
Similarly, the bandwidth required for recovery should also be estimated. It’s all very well getting your data into the cloud, but it’s quite another when it comes to restoring that data back to your onsite server farm.
6. Does your business have multiple sites?
If your business has multiple sites, you may have a private MPLS network in place to carry intra-company traffic. This may no longer be the most cost-effective way of managing your telecoms connectivity and many organisations are now looking to evolving technologies such as SD-WAN as a more effective way to deliver traffic.
Software-defined wide area networking, as the name suggests, uses software to control the routing of traffic and unlike private MPLS circuits which are expensive to deploy, SD-WAN uses available internet connections that are agnostic to all kinds of links and providers and are cloud-aware. This extra layer of intelligence allows IT administrators to use bandwidth more efficiently, deliver more security with centralised policy and access management and offer better application experience to users.
6. How critical is internet connectivity to my business?
If the clear answer is yes, then you will want resiliency built into your network and this means putting a place a secondary connection with automatic failover when the primary link goes down. It’s good business practice to put in place basic secondary connectivity, giving you peace of mind that the main link fails, it will automatically switch to the secondary one allowing your business to continue uninterrupted.
Telcom have a range of business broadband and direct fibre connectivity solutions available to businesses nationwide, thanks to our network of connectivity partners. Check out services or request a quote for your existing links.
We’ll make sure to right-size internet connectivity first though.