The trend for increasing numbers of employees and customers bringing their own devices into a workplace can seriously impair a businesses’ access to the internet.
The problem is that as more mobile devices connect to the network, a business can quickly discover that its cloud-based applications, payments systems, accounting, stock control, customer relationship management (CRM) and business applications have become hopelessly sluggish.
The escalating load on workplace bandwidth greatly slows down the use of these essential applications and is usually followed by a rapid increase in costs as the business seeks to cope by buying more and more capacity instead of directly addressing the root of the problem.
However, it is entirely possible for businesses to reduce costs and put themselves back in control as long as they have access to the right tools and expertise, particularly on a managed services basis. It is possible to reduce excessive bandwidth use by having solutions that our application aware and through a process of scoping, assessment, gatekeeping to put in the necessary quality of service parameters to ensure a predictive network performance.
The result is that businesses continue to work at full optimisation and need not fear that continuity will be badly affected by unexpected surges or by unexplained traffic, either from customers or members of staff. This is a reduction in use and cost that can also be implemented without any significant detriment to staff morale.
The pressure on bandwidth
Of course, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is embraced by a quickly growing number of organisations in order to boost productivity. On the one hand staff tend to be much more comfortable working on a device they own; whether it be a mobile phone, tablet or laptop computer and may also be more likely to finish work while commuting on the train or at home after working hours. On the other hand, it also benefits businesses by reducing the wear and tear on the laptops and tablets and maintenance costs provided to employees by the company.
However, once employees have their own devices at work, the corporate WAN is likely to be used for a variety of purposes that place severe and expensive pressure on bandwidth.
Many employees for example, feel it is legitimate to download newer versions of software or different applications to their devices to help them work faster. While this may be true, it can quickly pile up problems into the network.
Others will continually use bandwidth-hungry applications such as social networks or video streaming apps, while those with less scruples will be downloading films, music and games to their devices over the company’s Wi-Fi connection. It is also common for employees to bring two smartphones to work, both of which will automatically log on to the employer’s Wi-Fi system as soon as they enter the premises.
This pressure on bandwidth makes it very difficult when businesses want to facilitate flexible working practices but are also burdened by finite resources and quite rightly do not wish to be constantly upgrading WAN connectivity, considering the heavy impact on costs this can entail.
Unfortunately, few large businesses really know exactly how many devices their employees are using on their systems on a daily basis nor who these devices are being used by.
Many have only a hazy notion of the amount of bandwidth their own applications use or which applications they are running. Mergers and acquisitions often complicate matters and make it difficult to obtain a complete picture of two previously diverse organisations. Without a clear picture of who is using how much bandwidth, and what they are using it for, can make finding the right solution quite difficult.
Yet the BYOD phenomenon is not just about employees.
Using managed service expertise
In retail, the increasing use by customers of in-store Wi-Fi can place great strain on bandwidth during seasonal rushes like Black Friday and Christmas. Retailers who have invested in mobile point-of-sale technology then find it works so slowly it almost negates the purpose of having it. Surges in Wi-Fi use can even slow down the local area network and affect fixed point-of-sale equipment.
A managed services provider can use its expertise and objectivity to address these and other problems. Site surveys will determine what is running across a network, allowing the business to determine the applications that are priorities and who should be permitted to use them.
Applications that are interactive and also in constant use, requiring frequent logins and the regular up- or downloading of data may not be best suited to the cloud, whereas an application used as infrequently as once per day or week should be lodged there.
While Google, Amazon and others are persuasive in pushing the benefits of cloud computing, organisations need to consider the effect on their wide area connectivity before they opt to put major applications in the cloud. Consideration should also be given to the cost of putting data into the cloud and also retrieving it from a cloud storage provider
Once a measured assessment has been conducted and a business has established what its priorities are, devices can monitor and measure the use of applications such as YouTube, Instagram or Facebook and control their hours of usage or restrict their use completely. Use can also be restricted to certain times, such as lunch breaks or to a limited period after the official end of the working day. Other applications being accessed by employees may, on the other hand, have little effect and can simply be permitted without any problems cropping up.
There are a number of devices in a network that are application aware including Wi-Fi Access Points that can provide control mechanism at different parts of the network with the right QoS mechanisms deployed for both employees or customers. It does nonetheless; require expertise and a full assessment of a network to ensure core business applications have priority but the customer experience is still maintained and devices are not overloaded by increased processing power that slows them down by incorrect configurations.
Overall, when facing the increasing pressures on bandwidth from BYOD and the growing use of cloud applications, businesses do not automatically have to invest in more costly bandwidth.
Instead of being overwhelmed and setting aside more resources for a costly quick-fix, organisations can use managed services expertise to reduce costs and give themselves a more long-term and robust solution.
Dan Thornton, Head of Solutions Developments, Hughes Europe
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