Are your employees frustrated with slow Internet speeds? Before you call your ISP and increase your bandwidth, it’s best to determine the root cause.
There are several factors that could be causing a slow user experience. Router, firewall, malware, bad cables, employees streaming media unbeknownst to IT, packet prioritization, as well as ISP related issues, could all be culprits to slow Internet speeds or high latency.
With so many possible saboteurs to broadband performance, you’ll want to be systematic in your approach to identifying the problem. Start with the connection closest to the Internet, and work your way back to your users, device by device, until you isolate the point of the problem.
Test your Internet connection.
Your first test should be the Internet connection. If you’re using a business-grade Internet service, your ISP can run several tests. The most accurate test is the direct connect test. Here, your Internet service provider will test your broadband connection at the Demarc – the point at which your Internet connection is handed-off to your router/firewall. If your Internet connection is slow, or has high latency, the direct connect test will tell you that the problem is your Internet connection.
If speed and latency test results meet the performance standards of your Internet service contract, then the problem is within your network. Most often performance is not intermittent, but regular in nature. So if the direct connect test shows all is well, then move to the next device.
Test your router/firewall
Next you’ll want to check your router/firewall. Run a speed test utilizing a credible online speed test. To determine if it’s the router/firewall, you’ll need to connect your laptop/tablet device behind the router/firewall, but in front of your users and your switch. Run the speed test 3-4 times. If your results show slow speeds or high latency then you’ve identified the router/firewall as the culprit. Inspect your wired connections to make sure there are no physical issues. Check rate limiting settings, packet prioritization configurations, and interface settings such as speed and duplex. (Normal interface settings are GigE/FastE and Duplex Auto.) Check for errors on the interface (PHY/CRC), which if exist, will point to bad cables or connectors. Have you outgrown your firewall capacity? If your CPU load is 80% or greater with full user load, then it’s probably time to upgrade your firewall.
Test your switch
Connect to the speed test behind your switch, but in front of your servers and users. If it’s a switch issue, check your packet prioritization. Are your packets VLAN tagged correctly? Check your port utilization by setting them all back to zero to see if you have one port flooding the switch. As on the router, verify there are no interface errors. If you are using multiple switches, check the topology to confirm data flow is properly routing.
Continue testing in isolation
Continue testing each device in isolation until you find the problem device. This can be a tedious process for many IT pros, and often the interruption to users is less than desirable. If you can test after hours, do so.
Use a packet sniffer to ID the problem
An alternative to isolation testing discussed above, is to use a technical packet analyzer. These programs provide a packet analyzer and bandwidth monitor at port level to help you isolate the problem without having to unplug and isolate each device in your network for testing.
Most common causes of slow Internet
Our experience as a business-grade ISP has shown that the most common root cause is attributed to insufficient bandwidth. The Skyriver Bandwidth Utilization Report helps customers understand bandwidth usage over day-parts and weeks.
Most often, the high bandwidth use is due to employees transporting more data volume than the company realizes. The proliferation of BYOD and streaming media often cause companies to underestimate their bandwidth use. To help Skyriver customers determine the right amount of bandwidth for their needs, we can temporarily increase bandwidth and provide the Skyriver Bandwidth Utilization Report to help determine how much bandwidth is appropriate. If customers need more bandwidth, we can quickly and easily increase it to the right amount.
Another common problem is packet prioritization. If you are using real-time services like VoIP or video conferencing, you need to prioritize these packets above other data packets if you want a good user experience. Make sure your packet prioritization is properly set in both your router and switch, and confirm that your ISP supports your prioritization. If you are not using a business-grade ISP that allows packet prioritization, investigate a high-performance service like Skyriver Enterprise broadband.
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