The communications (r)evolution part 4: Tips for optimising network performance

As they try to keep up with the pace of change, and the introduction of disruptive technologies such as the cloud and big data, they tend to approach network performance management in a reactive way.

Eduard du Plessis, MD of EOH Network Solutions, says they are often required to deploy technologies and solutions in isolated, trouble spots, often without an all-encompassing strategy or real visibility into the network. “The advent of cloud has made some organisations forget the basics of IT, in terms of network and capacity management, and change control. In their haste to jump on the cloud bandwagon, they overlook other vital aspects of their information technologies.”

According to him, one of the most crucial elements that corporates must keep control of is their network infrastructure. “The introduction of the cloud means that an even greater emphasis is needed on the network’s importance to IT operations. Now that servers and sensitive information are stored in the cloud, we will see an increase in network traffic as users pull that data from satellite offices and branches across the globe.”

In addition, he points out that with workforces being increasingly geographically dispersed and accessing the corporate network from many locations, the network has become the single most important operational tool for a business. Because of this, he says organisations are looking for ways to boost the efficiency of their networks, to make their networking budgets stretch a little further.

He offers several tips for organisations wanting to optimise their networks to avoid bottlenecks that are an inevitability of today’s business environment.

Firstly, he cites WAN optimisation.  Especially if the Cloud platform in use lives abroad.  This is an array of techniques designed to manage network traffic by lowering redundancy and inefficiency in network traffic, thus cutting down on traffic demands. “There are several ways of going about WAN optimisation. A good start would be caching, or the process of storing data in a cache or temporary storage area. Pre-populated data, for example pictures and other files that are often requested by your user’s browsers, are sent to a remote site, and that file is cached by a local device, which can then save the file and serve it up locally, saving on bandwidth usage.”

Similarly, he says de-duplication can eradicate network traffic associated with data backups by performing one, complete backup of a given file, sending only altered portions of these, instead of the full file each time. “Compression is another useful technique. It employs an array of algorithms and techniques to lower the size of the data being sent across the network, eliminating any portions of the files that are not strictly necessary, again lowering the amount of traffic.”

Traffic management is also a valuable technique, says Du Plessis. “Too many organisations do not manage their network traffic efficiently. Resources are wasted, and this in turn lowers the effectiveness of the network. Disruptive technologies such as cloud applications and unified communications only exacerbate the problem, placing a greater strain on the network and adding extra complexity. WAN traffic management makes use of techniques like traffic monitoring and shaping to pinpoint the traffic that is most crucial, therefore maximising the efficacy of the network.”

Lastly, he says a vast number of applications and application protocols exist within each organisation, and all of these need to be controlled and monitored. Moreover, he says not all applications are equal in terms of their importance to the business, and some are not designed with WAN deployment in mind, and can cause bottlenecks on the network.

“However, there are vendors that provide application acceleration appliances that optimise only specific types of traffic, by offloading specific servers. It is vital that a good and comprehensive network optimisation is able to selectively prioritise traffic, particularly in cases where WAN links are used a lot, and are operating above their rated capacity,” he concludes.

Du Plessis will delve deep into each of the trends changing our workplaces today and in the future in a series of articles. Look out for The Communications (r)evolution Part 5 next month.