3 Ways to Stop Bandwidth Costs Increasing

Does it feel like there is no way to stop bandwidth costs increasing? Everyone likes a fast Internet connection and in the business world time waiting for applications to load is measured in man hours and dollars.

The current solution to Internet link saturation is to increase the link size. Increasing monthly costs. But does this fix the problem? Arguably not.

Should I increase my Internet link size?

Increasing the size of the Internet link MAY alleviate the problem. If this option is chosen it assumes that the current Internet traffic is of a fixed size, and increasing the link will create a window of unused capacity and speed up overall results. However, there is a possibility that increasing the Internet link will only allow your network users to use more bandwidth!

If you increase your Internet link bandwidth and your users saturate that link, you have not fixed problem.

1. Protect key applications with QOS.

It makes much more sense to organise your Internet traffic in such a way that time critical applications such as VoIP, CRM and Remote Desktop apps get a priority.

Give priority to VoIP, CRM and Remote Desktop

Quality of Service (QOS) or Traffic Shaping will allow you to give priority to whatever application you value. With an effective QOS policy, even if the link is entirely saturated by large data transfers, your time critical services will get priority and latency will be decreased. This increases the efficiency of the current link speed, without the need to upgrade the Internet bandwidth.


What are the QOS options?

Can I do my own traffic shaping?

You certainly can. In fact Linux has had an open source (and free) traffic shaping tool for a long time. It is powerful, effective and has a reasonable community. However, you will also need to know quite a bit about the Linux command line, Linux routing and the complex nature of even a moderate shaping policy. Strictly for the Linux gurus and enthusiasts.

QOS on your switch

A lot of the managed switches these days have their own QOS capabilities. If you run Cisco gear for example, it may already have the tools that you require. You do, however, need to have detailed knowledge of the Cisco command line interface in order to set these policies up. In my experience it is only slightly less complicated than the open source solution.

NetScope QOS

Traffic shaping/QOS built in from the ground up in NetScope. So you can see a detailed graphical view of your network traffic and easily apply shaping policies to each data type on the fly. This solution is geared towards the network administrator who wants to have full control over his network but does not have time to learn/troubleshoot configurations provided by the open source software.

2. Limit Bandwidth Hogs

There are lots of Internet traffic hogs out there that the business needs. Take site backups for example, they are necessary and a part of any reasonable redundancy plan, but unchecked they can easily saturate your Internet link. Sure, you can run them after hours but what if your business runs 24/7?

You don’t want to stop site backups, but you can limit their impact

How can we limit the impact of bandwidth hogs?

QOS saves the day again

We don’t need to limit the amount of bandwidth that a site backup uses (to continue our example), but make sure that it is a lower priority then our important applications such as VoIP, CRM & Remote Desktop.

Site backups will then use 100% of the Internet link, only when important applications are not using it.

This means you can effectively backup any time of day, several times a day, without it adversely affecting speed of time critical applications.

3. Block unwanted applications and websites

There are always can be undesirable applications on your network and users trying to access websites that aren’t approved at your workplace.

Deep Packet Inspection

It is important to be able to block unwanted applications before they leave or enter through your Internet connection. Your average firewall will do just that, but some applications deliberately try and evade basic firewall rules. In order to block applications such as Bittorrent and the TOR Browser you will need deep packet inspection.

Unwanted applications try to:

  • Use random ports to evade detection.
  • Encrypt their data and used to regular application layers (like HTTPS).

What to do?

  • Block the application as it tries to initiate using deep packet inspection.
  • Find the culprit and shut them down.