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8 Ways To Maximize Network Bandwidth

  • Network bandwidth is a fixed commodity. Sure, links can be upgraded or aggregated to add more capacity in many situations. But it also costs a significant amount of money and can take a great deal of time to implement. Because of this, it's important to know and understand ways getting the most out of the finite amount of bandwidth you already have.

    In this slideshow, we’ll look at eight different ways you can maximize your network bandwidth. These eight specific methods all really boil down to just three different techniques. The first technique is to streamline data flows, which essentially means that data from point A to point B take the most optimal path. Doing so can eliminate areas where bottlenecks are commonly found.

    The next method is to optimize data so it either consumes less overall bandwidth or is prioritized to give it a sense that there's more bandwidth available than there actually is. Optimization can be performed at a number of points along the data path. It’s also the area that is growing the most in terms of capabilities and effectiveness.

    The third way to get the most out of your bandwidth is to eliminate unnecessary data traversing the network. This can take the form of written Internet usage policies, and more effectively, through the use of blacklists/whitelists enforced on the network. Limiting what can and cannot be done on a corporate network can make a significant impact on bandwidth utilization at critical parts of the network.

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  • Use QoS and traffic policing/shaping

    If congestion is causing a problem for critical applications, you can use quality of service and traffic policing or shaping to identify and mark packets, then allocate a rate or percentage of the overall bandwidth to ensure that the data is prioritized. A robust QoS architecture can truly work wonders.

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  • Load balance across redundant paths

    If you have redundant links and/or redundant servers, you can put them to use in an active/active load-balancing mode as opposed to strictly an active/standby architecture. There are multiple ways to accomplish load balancing at layers 2,3, 4 and 7;  much of it depends on what software/hardware you have available and the intended load-balancing results.

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  • Implement WAN optimization tools

    It used to be that network engineers would manually modify TCP window sizing and error correction settings, and  implement compression on network routers/switches to better optimize WAN links. Nowadays, most have moved on to use WAN optimization appliances that are far more adaptive and easier to manage. WAN optimization also uses caching and other techniques to significantly reduce the amount of traffic needed to traverse WAN connections.

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  • Streamline traffic flows

    Many network designs called for  hub-and-spoke architectures, which required data from remote sites be sent first to a centralized location before it was routed out a different spoke. These designs were commonly done on the WAN to cut down on the added cost of a full-mesh architecture. But since WAN prices have dropped significantly, along with growing use of hybrid WAN technologies, creating a full- or partial-mesh architecture can significantly reduce areas where bottlenecks regularly form.

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  • Migrate applications to the cloud

    If you have a widely dispersed and mobile workforce, sometimes the best way to reduce bandwidth is to offload it into the cloud. Through the use of public and hybrid clouds, many of your users might not ever need to send traffic to and from corporate owned networks. Instead, that traffic would be offloaded on to the cloud service provider.

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  • Identify and eliminate non-business traffic

    If employee usage of network resources is left unchecked – especially Internet resources  – bandwidth can spiral out of control very quickly. Using next-generation firewalls and secure web gateways (SWGs) to create and enforce Internet usage policies to block traffic that’s not for business purposes will immediately reclaim a significant amount of Internet bandwidth. Simply blocking access to YouTube and Netflix alone can make a dramatic reduction in traffic usage.

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  • Use out-of-band management

    The management of network hardware and software can consume a significant amount of bandwidth. To counter this, administrators should utilize out-of-band management transport whenever possible. Not only will you save precious bandwidth, it’s also a safer and more reliable way to manage your network.

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  • Organize timing of network backups and updates

    One of the most common reasons businesses suffer from a lack of bandwidth is when they don’t properly organize the timing of remote network data backups and mass software updates/patches. Network administrators must work with server and application administrators to first determine if backups/patching can’t be accomplished using local methods. If that’s not possible, then these tasks must be properly scheduled and rate-limited in an attempt to limit the impact to end users.

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