Computer networks are supposed to make your employees' jobs easier and business operations more efficient. However, network performance issues can have the opposite effect. One study found that most employees cite poor connectivity as their top workplace frustration,1 highlighting the need for more businesses to offer better user experiences by improving network performance. And employees aren't the only people affected by poor network performance – nearly 40% of consumers will leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.2
Optimizing your network can ensure faster data transfer, lower latency, and improved network reliability to help your workplace run more efficiently. In this blog, we'll dive into the concept of network optimization and how it can help you improve network performance, save money, increase productivity, and much more.
What Is Network Optimization?
Network optimization refers to the tools and strategies used to improve network performance. It involves analyzing a business's network infrastructure, identifying performance issues, and implementing solutions to mitigate them. Network optimization aims to ensure traffic can move across the network without any delays or interruptions by improving usability and overall performance.
Network optimization typically involves multiple technologies and techniques, such as optimizing network configurations, upgrading network hardware, and implementing networking tools like content delivery networks (CDNs) and software-defined networking (SDN). It can also include ongoing monitoring and management to ensure the network stays healthy long-term.
Why Is Network Optimization Important?
Having an efficient, reliable network is vital for organizations to remain competitive. Implementing network optimization can help your business maximize network performance, reduce costs and downtime, and strengthen your security posture to ensure a stable IT environment. Here are a few reasons why you should prioritize network optimization:
The primary goal of network optimization is to allow data and other traffic to flow more smoothly across your network. Network optimization typically involves reducing latency and increasing bandwidth to deliver data faster, which improves overall performance and network health.
Network optimization can help you identify and resolve issues that might cause downtime, such as packet loss and congestion. Addressing the problems that impact network performance can help you proactively minimize the risk of disruptions caused by unplanned outages.
Optimizing network performance minimizes the need to make regular hardware upgrades, resulting in cost savings over time. Plus, you can avoid potential financial and productivity losses associated with network downtime or data breaches.
Optimizing your network can help you better utilize available bandwidth, hardware, and software. By ensuring your network resources aren't being underutilized or overburdened, your business can develop a more balanced, efficient infrastructure.
What Network Optimization Metrics Should Businesses Track?
Any technique you use to optimize network performance won't amount to much if you're not tracking the right metrics. Here are five network performance metrics and KPIs to keep an eye on when measuring your optimization efforts:
Packet loss refers to the number of data packets that fail to reach their destination. Data packets are small, manageable segments of a file, message, or other types of network traffic transmitted across a network. The packets are then reassembled to form the original data. If a packet fails to arrive, the source only has to resend the lost packet instead the entire file.
High packet loss can affect network performance in many ways that disrupt business operations, including slow response times, increased latency, and reduced bandwidth.
Latency measures the time it takes for a data packet to reach its destination. High network latency can lead to a 3.5% productivity loss3, while delays in data transmission typically only amount to a few milliseconds at a time, they can add up to a significant lag altogether.
Common factors that affect latency include poor networking configuration, network storage issues, and server hardware failures. Lower latency is critical for real-time applications and a better user experience since it reflects that your network is faster and more responsive.
Availability measures how often your network is "up" and available for use rather than experiencing downtime. Optimal network availability means your hardware and software are functioning properly, so your employees and other users have uninterrupted access to the network resources they need.
You can easily calculate network availability by dividing the uptime by the total time in a monitoring period and multiplying this number by 100. For example, if your network is operational for 99.9% of the time, its availability would be calculated as:
- Availability = (Total Uptime / Total Time) x 100
- Availability = (99.9% / 100%) x 100
- Availability = 99.9%
Bandwidth utilization tracks the percentage of available bandwidth your network is utilizing. High utilization typically results in slowdowns, dropped connections, and delays, especially if network components are being over-utilized for long periods of time.
Monitoring utilization can help you identify bottlenecks and prioritize your most critical applications or users to ensure they have the necessary bandwidth to perform optimally.
Jitter is the variation in packet delay across an entire network. When delays between packets are inconsistent, it can impact the quality of real-time applications like voice calls and video conferencing. Network jitter is usually caused by congestion, outdated networking hardware, or a poor internet connection.
Keeping jitter levels low helps ensure your network can handle real-time data transmission efficiently, leading to improved user satisfaction and productivity.
What Are the Benefits of Network Optimization?
By 2025, an estimated 75.44 billion internet-connected devices will generate a massive amount of network data.3 Network optimization will be vital for businesses that want to get the full value from this data, alongside advantages such as:
Network optimization improves the performance of your network infrastructure, which can have a major impact on employee productivity. Issues that affect your network performance can prevent employees from accessing and using applications when they need them. Since network optimization keeps data flowing, your workers don't have to wait for your network to catch up.
Stronger Security Posture
Network optimization includes implementing security measures and strategies designed to protect your network from threats. Monitoring the traffic moving through your network can help your security teams more easily identify and respond to cyber attacks or unauthorized users.
More than 70% of IT professionals say network analysis is critical for improving performance and security.3 By using monitoring tools to track and analyze the network optimization metrics mentioned above, you can gain actionable insights into potential bottlenecks and user experience issues. And because a well-optimized network helps ensure data arrives at its destination without corruption or loss, analytics results are more accurate and reliable.
Better User Experience
Optimized networks enhance the user experience for employees and customers alike, whether they're accessing files, communications, or web content. Users experience faster response times, consistent connectivity, and better application performance, which is especially important for cloud-based tools like web conferencing and VoIP calls.
Network optimization improves scalability by ensuring the network infrastructure can accommodate growing demands – both in terms of data volume and the number of users or devices that can access your network. Techniques like load balancing and traffic shaping distribute network traffic more evenly across your available resources, eliminating bottlenecks and allowing the network to handle more data without overwhelming any specific component.
Top 5 Network Optimization Techniques
Network engineers use many different techniques to optimize network performance. Some of the most popular include:
1. Load Balancing
Load balancing helps distribute traffic evenly across a network to prevent overloading and ensure optimal performance. This technique involves moving network traffic across multiple servers, so if one server stops working, the load balancer can redirect traffic to keep critical applications accessible. It also helps prevent hardware failure by ensuring servers are utilized effectively and operating at optimal capacity.
2. Bandwidth Optimization
Bandwidth optimization involves allocating bandwidth dynamically based on real-time network demands to make sure your critical applications and services have the resources needed to function properly. Network traffic prioritization and traffic shaping are used to control the flow of traffic and prevent congestion. This technique also typically uses compression and caching to reduce the amount of data transmitted over the network.
3. Network Monitoring
Network monitoring and analysis can help you identify issues and can make changes to improve performance. Using network monitoring software can also help you plan for the future by offering insights into how much bandwidth and other network resources you need to accommodate growth.
4. Content Delivery Networks
A content delivery network (CDN) can help improve the performance, reliability, and efficiency of content being delivered to your users. CDNs work by distributing and caching network traffic across multiple geographically-dispersed servers. When someone requests a website or application, the CDN sends the content from the server closest to the user to reduce network latency and improve the user experience.
5. Network Hardware Upgrades
Upgrading your network hardware – such as routers, switches, and network adapters – can improve capacity, reliability, and performance. Newer network hardware typically has faster processors and higher memory capacity, leading to faster data processing and forwarding capabilities. And since modern network devices include advanced security features, they can help increase network resilience against cyber attacks.
What Is Network Performance Monitoring?
Network performance monitoring is a technique businesses use to continuously monitor and measure network performance and health. It involves collecting, analyzing, and reporting network metrics to ensure the network operates optimally and consistently meets desired performance levels.
The primary functions of network performance monitoring include:
Identifying Problem Areas
Continuously measuring your network optimization KPIs lets you determine what issues are affecting your network's performance. You can quickly and easily identify where problems are located in your network devices and what actions you can take to improve network operations.
Comparing Network Performance
Analyzing historical network data provides insights into usage patterns to identify areas for improvement. Data on network traffic and performance metrics can help network engineers better understand how your employees and customers use the network and where bottlenecks regularly occur.
Implementing Optimization Tools and Techniques
The network optimization tools and strategies you implement will differ depending on the performance issues you've uncovered. A few common techniques include load balancing, optimizing network settings, and checking network connections to ensure your network is set up for smooth traffic delivery. You can also use tools like CDNs or software-defined networking (SDN), which centralizes network traffic management to make adjusting to changing network needs easier.
Why Is Continuous Network Optimization Important?
Business networks constantly evolve, so your network optimization efforts have to be ongoing. Continuous network optimization can help you:
Meet Changing Business Needs
As your business needs change, your network must change with them. Continuously optimizing your network can help you ensure it's always able to handle increased demands and support new applications as needed – now and in the future.
Better Overall Network Performance
Continuous network optimization helps you identify and address performance issues before they have a chance to impact business operations. This can improve your network's speed and reliability to minimize downtime and improve employee productivity in the long term.
Gain a Competitive Advantage
An optimized network gives your business a competitive advantage by delivering better performance than your competitors. By offering more reliable connectivity and improved performance, you can attract and retain more customers, improve productivity, and reach your goals faster.
Start Optimizing Your Network Performance Today
As the business landscape evolves, your network should also adapt to new demands. By optimizing your network, you can ensure it remains robust, reliable, and ready to support your business objectives.
If you're ready to optimize your network, eStruxture can help. As Canada's largest data center provider, we've helped nearly 1,000 customers achieve improved network efficiency, reliability, and overall performance with our enterprise-grade colocation services. Colocation can help your business gain the right balance of power, connectivity, and flexibility to adapt to your changing needs in a facility designed with optimization in mind.
Get in touch with the eStruxture team today to learn more about how our colocation services can help you get the space and support you need to grow your business.