Cloud services, big data, streaming video, VoIP phones, IoT devices – businesses need network speed and bandwidth to handle the capacity requirements of new applications hitting the scene every day. As networks take on more, are you tracking the factors that could impact network speed?

A survey conducted a few years ago by Sandisk tells us just how much of an effect slow networks can have. Based on the study, U.S. workers waste 4.9 days every year just waiting for their computers to respond.

worker stretches while he waits on his computer

Let’s cover some of the factors that impact your network speed.

Factors Impacting Network Speed:

  • Your Industry

    Some industries are prone to heavier network usage. With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), however, it’s becoming harder to separate the technology-heavy industries. Take healthcare, for example. Twenty years ago, healthcare may have been considered an industry that didn’t rely on network speed to complete daily tasks.

    a doctor share information with a patient using a tablet

    Today, however, most hospitals and physician’s offices use web-based patient and scheduling applications; nearly every workstation is logged in to the programs during the day. Doctors, nurses and schedulers are constantly adding, updating, changing and removing data. In addition, each of these workstations likely has a VoIP phone and an email application running in the background. All of these factors impact network speed.

    Meanwhile, back in the clinical areas, high-tech hospitals may have medical devices connected directly to the network to upload data directly into patient records. X-rays, MRIs and other high-resolution images are also being captured, stored and sent on the network. Plus, at any given time, there may be a staff member watching on-demand webinars to earn continuing education credits. Other staff members might be streaming audio in the background while they sift through paperwork.

    Is it becoming easier to see how networks can get bogged down? Your industry and the type of work being done may often determine how fast your network speed should be.cant ignore cat 6a banner

  • Staffing Levels

    This factor is pretty straightforward: The more people using a network, the more applications that are being used – and the more action that occurs on the network. More network activity leads to the potential for network speed to suffer.

    busy office space

    In addition to knowing the number of network users, it’s important to know what they’re doing and how bandwidth intensive the activities are:

    • Using web-based applications or conducting web browsing
    • Sending and receiving emails (also consider attachment sizes)
    • Conducting videoconferencing sessions
    • Utilizing remote desktop services (virtual desktops)
    • Streaming audio and/or video

    A graphic designer who conducts daily videoconferencing sessions with clients around the country, accesses remote desktop services from other locations and sends/receives high-resolution imagery will probably impact network speed much more than a receptionist who only access the network to manage the phone system and respond to incoming emails.

  • Number of Devices Connected

    This category is separate from number of users for one simple reason: A single user often has more than one device connected to the network. For example, a sales executive may use an office workstation to access the CRM system and a VoIP phone to make calls – in addition to bringing a smartphone and tablet. In this case, there are four devices being used by just one person.

    an employee using a smartphone, tablet, and laptop

    Visitors – whether they’re patients, hotel guests, clients, students or shoppers – often come with their own devices as well. And it’s difficult to predict how many devices they will be using to access your network at any one time.

    Then there are the devices that don’t “belong” to anyone, but are still part of your network. Ethernet switching is moving away from only providing user connectivity to providing infrastructure support for intelligent buildings and IoT connections. No one actively uses these IoT devices to access the network, but they’re always connected to communicate and share data: cameras, digital signage, wireless access points, etc.

    Originally, the main driver of network speed was wired LAN, with speeds increasing from 100M to 1G. Since 2005, 10G technology has been readily available but was rarely deployed in the LAN because 1G could easily support desktop users and wireless LAN users.

    Wireless LAN technology and speeds, however, have quickly evolved and are finally catching up with wired LAN speeds. Today, wireless is the biggest driver of network speed. Multi-gigabit wireless speeds triggered the development of 2.5G and 5GBASE-T (to connect wireless access points to the rest of the network). Now, with 802.11ax in development, 10G Ethernet uplinks will soon be required.

    In the past decade, the average speed of LAN switch ports has increased steadily from 0.5G to 1G. The latest forecast from Dell’Oro predicts that the average speed per port will reach 2.5G by 2019 – and this significant increase is fueled by the deployment of multi-gigabit WiFi. As wireless becomes more prolific, more and more devices will continue to connect.

  • Number of Office Locations

    How many office locations share your network? One network allows all of your business locations to work, communicate and share information easily. It can also be more efficient and cost effective to maintain and manage centralized IT resources rather than separate infrastructures.

    pins on a map

    Whether you’re utilizing the cloud, VPN services or another method to connect your network to remote locations, network speed will be impacted.
  • Cable Types and Categories

    If your cabling system isn’t capable of delivering appropriate bandwidth levels, network speed will suffer. Each type of category cable (Category 5e, Category 6, Category 6A, etc.) has the ability to carry a specific amount of traffic based on its MHz rating. Bandwidth capacity of the cable must increase as the speed of the signals increases.

    different colored category cables

    But it’s important to note that a cable’s MHz rating doesn’t ensure a certain network speed. Incorrect installation or long cable runs can alter cable performance. To make sure the cabling system can support the desired network speed, there are a few things you should do:

    1. Invest in an end-to-end system from a single manufacturer (this means that all components are designed to work together)
    2. Ensure proper network design as per standards and recommendations
    3. Hire an approved, certified installer to make sure all systems and components are installed and tested correctly
  • Use of Cloud Services

    The use of public and private cloud services and applications continues to expand, which changes the way bandwidth is used. If your network isn’t prepared to handle it, users will experience slowdown.

    According to Redmond Magazine, companies that move to the cloud often have to increase their bandwidth to support the use of external cloud applications that were previously in-house.

Determining Your Ideal Network Speed:

There are, of course, other factors that also impact network speed. What would you add to this list?

Belden’s LAN solutions can help you futureproof your network, accommodate more devices and users, and maintain network speeds. If you need help determining which network speed is right for you – or what your business should anticipate for its network down the road – we’re here to help!

Have you noticed network speeds becoming slower as more users and devices join your network? Share your experience in the comments section below!