Brian MacDonald

Thursday, 31 January 2002 05:29

Feast, famine or somewhere in between?

The majority of business decisions affect your bottom line, and Internet connectivity is no different. For your employees' sanity, your efficiency and your budget, it's important to have the right amount of bandwidth serving your business.

Bandwidth is the size or speed of your Internet connection. If your bandwidth does not match your needs, it's in your best interests to increase or decrease your bandwidth. Even if your company needs more bandwidth, the added expense may grow your bottom line by increasing efficiency and decreasing turnaround times.

If your business is purchasing more bandwidth than it needs, cut costs by choosing a less expensive, lower bandwidth Internet connection. If you have too little, it takes longer to conduct business over the Internet.

So, does your business have the appropriate amount of connectivity?

A lot of companies have problems answering. If your company already has a dedicated Internet connection, the answer may be as easy as calling your Internet Service Provider and requesting a usage report. Most ISPs can provide a graph or report representing the bandwidth you consume against the bandwidth you've purchased.

Industry experts suggest that, to get your money's worth and achieve optimum efficiency, your company's average usage during peak times should consume between 50 percent and 60 percent of your total bandwidth. Any more or less, and you should think about changing.

For companies just starting out or which are new to the Internet, determining how large a connection is needed can be challenging. Without any usage history, you can only guess. However, there are some guidelines to follow in estimating of your needs.

Leaders should think about what their employees will be using the Internet for. While the number of users and duration of Internet use are important, the type of data you will be sending or receiving through the connection is the most important deciding factor.

For example, a 15-person firm might not need much bandwidth. But, if all 15 employees are architects, graphic artists or computer-aided drafting software users, the company will probably need a DSL or T-1 connection to support their needs.

Bandwidth-intensive applications include sending/receiving large files, Web site hosting, audio- or videoconferencing and operating a virtual private network (VPN).

Always choose an ISP which will work with you to solve your information technology needs, not just one which will sell you the most expensive connection. Monitor your Internet usage. Are you and fellow employees staring blankly into your monitors, waiting for files to load? Lengthy downtime while waiting for connections can mean it's time for a switch.

After a few months, ask to see the usage report for your connection. It you don't have enough bandwidth, you'll know it. But, if your connection meets your needs, you probably won't think any more of it. Look at the report anyway or there will be no indicators that you are paying for bandwidth that is going unused.

A down economy is the best time for good business sense. Information technology is one area where operational efficiency can be increased with more bandwidth or where money can be saved by downsizing your connection. Brian MacDonald is a manager of systems operations for Nauticom Internet Services, a Sewickley-based Internet Service Provider.