The internet is an essential part of almost every business these days, and if you’re working from home or running a micro business then it’s probably the communication tool you use the most. So it has to be fit for purpose – but too often it can grind to a halt, or at least slow down so much you feel as though you could make a cup of tea in the time it takes a page or an email to download.
If this has ever happened to you, start by looking at the following:
- Viruses or unnecessary software running in the background, may reduce a computer’s processing power, and this can affect how it accesses the internet
- Your computer may need software updates
- Older computers may not have adequate memory
- The location of your Wi-Fi router may a factor because such things as thickness of walls and metal pipes can cause noticeable slowing to internet connections
Investing in robust anti-virus software and more memory, and a maintenance check by an IT professional who will also reposition equipment as necessary may be all that’s required to boost your office’s internet access. Also, configuring computers to download and install necessary updates outside of office hours will relieve the workload on your bandwidth.
Although these are common issues, they’re unlikely to be the main reasons behind your snail-pace connection. Here are some other culprits:
If you’re sending 5GB of attachments, chunk them down and send them in a number of emails, better still zip the attachments, and even better, don’t add any attachment, instead include a Dropbox link.
Spam can also be a big problem: many companies find that for every megabyte of mail traffic, there is twice as much spam. So unsubscribe to emails you don’t want, and install spam protection software if the issue gets out of hand.
Cloud services free up space on hard drives, which is a great benefit, but the more a Cloud service is used, the more bandwidth is consumed, slowing down how quickly you can access your data. The movement of email hosting to the cloud (through Office 365 and Google Apps) also impacts internet speeds. Another option is to use colocation services providing data center space and connectivity to the Internet for your server.
You will need to match network capacity with bandwidth needs. This means, after you’ve migrated all of your system to the Cloud, identifying how much of your office bandwidth is used, and upgrading if necessary.
You can also tweak your Cloud service. For example, Dropbox is a very useful tool, which is designed to be smart about using bandwidth, but you can also manually adjust its bandwidth settings to choose Download and/or Upload rates you prefer.
Video conferencing is on the increase and is an important tool for microbusinesses who want to avoid the time and financial investment of traipsing off to meetings every few days. However, be aware that video conferencing does use a lot of bandwidth: for a low-quality desktop endpoint, video conferences can require anywhere from 128 Kbps, and for an immersive three-screen telepresence suite you’re looking at up to 20 Mbps.
If you’re already using video conferencing, the apparent ease of use of domestic applications such as FaceTime may have led you to not fully appreciate the demands put on your office bandwidth.
Another factor you may not be taking into account is that these days we all have multiple devices. With various combinations of phone, laptop, tablet, Kindle, Fitbits etc. – and all of these require Internet access in order to sync.
Keeping an eye on Social Media and/or news services is relatively easy on bandwidth, but the radio station you’re playing in the background could be being streamed from Seattle or Nashville. Services like Spotify or Amazon’s Music Unlimited also use a lot of bandwidth.
It may be that you already use VoIP in your business, or you’re considering incorporating. While it has many benefits—including streamlining your business (e.g. one supplier for voice and data); allowing calls to be diverted if you are out and about (even to a foreign country at no extra cost); the ability to place outbound calls through Outlook (or other email clients); the ability to make a receive calls while on holiday at no cost and without anyone knowing you aren’t in your office; plus savings in installation, maintenance and call charges—VoIP relies on hardy internet connections.
Whether you see VoIP in your business’s future or not, it’s important to review your internet connection. Assess your bandwidth usage by first determining how much your actual business needs. Then look at the overall use and if necessary work out which parts of the working day sees the heaviest use. It may be that the only way to improve your internet connection is to spend more money, but it may be that by reorganising when certain tasks are carried out, by making tweaks to equipment and software, and by educating yourself about how to get the most out of your bandwidth, you will resolve your issues, or at least limit any extra spend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Southgate is from Frontier Voice and Data providing businesses with working, flexible, bespoke and price competitive communications solutions for more than thirty years. FVD is an independent supplier and carries a comprehensive, business grade suite of products to suit any type or size of company. See: http://fvdata.co.uk/