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How much bandwidth do we really need?

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Currently, Malawi has one of the highest internet costs in the region, and this is not helped by a recent increase of government taxation. Accompanying this is the fact that most organisations now need the internet and this service is quickly being perceived as an essential service, along the lines of potable water and power. Economic growth and business is almost totally dependent on communication, leaving out other essential social services such as education and health.

With increasing internet costs due to the increased use of video conferencing, cloud services, software purchase downloads and social marketing and interaction, a cost effective organisation needs to get a handle on the in house demands of this service. As an organisation, do you know exactly how much bandwidth is required for the company to run optimally? Do you know who is utilising these services internally, and for what?

There is no silver bullet answer to these questions. However, some areas can be scrutinised and assessed and managed. For a start, the actual business requirements need to be qualified. A quick question to ask is; what is the most important internet transaction that is impacted on by downtime? Yes, email is always the most important. What about cloud services? Does your company use hosted accounting or payroll for example? Is there a need for a remote head office to access data in realtime or regularly? Do you need to down or upload large data files?

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What about online banking or online research? Do you use a VOIP solution instead of a PABX? What about social marketing, is your company dependent on this? Do you have remote head offices or sites, and are required to use messaging or video conferencing on a regular basis? These questions should initially give you an idea of what are business critical processes and what are not.

Next, you need to look at your mix of users and try and categorise them as heavy, medium or light users. For example, a sales manager who has to coordinate a remote team via video conferencing on a daily basis would be categorised as a heavy user. An administration assistant who only needs access to emails would be classified as a light user.

Once you have this information, it is now possible to do a simple estimate of your company bandwidth requirement. Most web advice is to consider 120Kbps for heavy, 80Kbps for medium and 50Kbps for light users. Due to the high cost in Malawi – I would reduce these numbers by about 20 percent. Multiply these by the type of user and you have a minimum company bandwidth requirement that you can start using and tweak based on daily statistics. Bear in mind that newer technology leads to newer business practices, and these will in turn probably lead to increased bandwidth demand. Likewise, an increase or decrease in employee numbers will affect your bandwidth requirements

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Once you have this, you can now also start managing your bandwidth more accurately. There are a number of hardware and software (many free) devices that allow you to monitor and shape your bandwidth usage. For example, you can identify and stop or restrict social network traffic by user and times. You can restrict downloads and video streaming such as You Tube. It is important to combine this with an up to date User IT Policy which educates users as to what the corporate bandwidth should and shouldn’t be used for.

Windows 10 now has a data usage monitoring tool found under network settings that lets you know usage on each device you access.

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