How to assess and manage your company's bandwidth needs Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010

Today’s businesses are powered by technology, and with more and more business being conducted over the Internet, the need for bandwidth has become paramount.

More bandwidth allows you to conduct business more rapidly, increasing your efficiency, decreasing turnaround times and increasing your sales.

“If all of your sales are conducted over the phone and/or the Internet, and your connection is too slow, it doesn’t help your business,” says Dan Barlow, a sales engineer for Time Warner Cable Business Class. “Too often, companies go for the lowest price and don’t properly assess their needs.”

Barlow recommends working with a service provider to perform a technology assessment for your business.

By taking the time upfront to determine your needs, you’ll save headaches and hassles in the future, allowing you to successfully conduct your business.

Smart Business spoke with Barlow about how to assess and manage your company’s bandwidth needs.

How can a business assess the amount of bandwidth it needs?

Bandwidth is defined as the amount of data (measured in megabits per second) that can travel from point A to point Z and all spots in between.

In order to assess your needs, first determine how you are using your bandwidth. Is it just for the Internet and e-mail, or are you sending and receiving large files?

How much data are you sending, and is it getting to the recipient in a timely manner? Can it handle all the users that are currently sharing it? And what happens if you add more users to it? Is your solution scalable? How much time would it take for your current provider to increase your bandwidth?

Also, look at your company’s Web site. How many hits does it get? Are users downloading audio/video files? Are you streaming media for videoconferencing?

A complete evaluation of these activities will help you to determine your bandwidth needs.

Why is bandwidth so important?

In this modern, technological world, it’s all about how fast you can do business. So, you need to make sure that you have enough bandwidth to keep up with the needs of your business.

Having the right amount of bandwidth can mean the difference between sending a file in five minutes, five hours, or five days. If it’s taking you hours to do something your competitor can do in minutes, who do you think the customer is going to choose?

What technologies can help make a business more efficient?

Again, bandwidth is king, so the popular technologies are ones that enhance bandwidth, such as firewalls and content filters.

These technologies limit what your users are capable of doing on the Internet and over your local area network, so the bandwidth remains available for business necessities.

There are also bandwidth optimizers and compressors that increase speeds; however, the more you compress/decompress a file, the more its quality suffers.

What type of return on investment does bandwidth offer?

The real ROI of bandwidth comes from seeing what you’re losing if you don’t have enough. If you can’t efficiently and effectively conduct business, you’ll lose sales, opportunities and repeat customers. How much can your business stand to lose? In this economic climate, having enough bandwidth is vital.

It’s hard to put a true value on increased efficiencies and improved productivity, but it’s pretty safe to say that properly increasing your bandwidth will more than pay for itself.

What bandwidth options are available?

There are two different bandwidth solutions: a shared network, or a dedicated private network. A shared network is like a cable modem — you’re sharing bandwidth with other traffic in your area. A dedicated network is dedicated to your business traffic.

But remember, you’re only as fast as the slowest link in your chain. So, if you’re on a shared network, upstream users could be slowing it down if utilization isn’t managed correctly.

If a business isn’t properly managing its bandwidth, what consequences could it face?

If your bandwidth is compromised, you’re in danger of losing customers and productivity.

Not managing bandwidth can result in longer wait times for customers and incoming/outgoing data. This can lead to lost sales and lost time. What can you afford to lose? How long do you want to stay in business? In this day and age, if you don’t have bandwidth, you don’t have business.

Dan Barlow is a sales engineer for the Cincinnati office of Time Warner Cable Business Class. Reach him at (513) 386-5642 or daniel.barlow@twcable.com.