Choosing a Bandwidth Manager

If your business is like others, you’re likely wondering where your network bandwidth is going. As the Internet has grown, apps, streaming audio and video and interactive gaming are being used more and more, often outside the auspices of the organization paying for the bandwidth they’re using. Network managers face problems in three areas:

  1. Bandwidth use that isn’t business-related

  2. Network congestion

  3. Traffic lost and resent because it exceeds the capacity of the WAN

Band width manager systems can control these three problem areas, providing consistent performance across your entire business network. These systems use one of three approaches: they create virtual bandwidth through caching or compression, they offer control through prioritization and queuing, and they can manage network flow.

Caching and compression reduces the level of data sent over the WAN and can deliver better app performance. This virtual bandwidth is more cost-efficient than upgrading a data plan, because it’s a one-time expense as opposed to a monthly charge. However, caching and compression doesn’t ensure that apps always perform as intended.

Traffic prioritization is a tactic used by some bandwidth management systems and WAN routers. A queuing mechanism ensures that time-sensitive traffic goes to the front of the line, and it identifies key apps. This solution is rolled into the cost of a WAN router, but like everything else, you only get what you pay for. During times of heavy use, data packets can be delayed or dropped entirely, starting the cycle of retransmission.

Traffic shaping is typically the best approach for many businesses, because it can control the rate at which your data flows onto your WAN. It ensures that there’s always sufficient bandwidth for key business apps, and it guarantees WAN link latency because it keeps queues from backing up. In our experience, compression and traffic shaping show the highest gains in WAN app performance.

Each bandwidth manager in your arsenal has benefits and drawbacks, but the visibility of your apps is important. Unless you are aware of exactly which applications are on your business’ network, it is almost impossible to allocate bandwidth to the right apps at the right time.

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