A brief or persistent slowdown in your network connection is frustrating, particularly if it happens at work. After all, you have deadlines to meet and customers to satisfy. What causes a slow connection? And what steps can you take to track down the cause?
First, consider the type of Internet access delivery technology you have. Shared bandwidth connections may experience periods of peak usage, typically during the business day when the highest number of people are working. Because bandwidth is shared, the actual speed it delivers at any moment will depend on the current traffic load based on how much bandwidth is used by other nearby users. Slowdowns can be less of an issue if you have a very high speed service, or if your service is in certain places such as major metro areas where providers have invested heavily in their infrastructure.
A dedicated connection, if available, is always your best option for business needs. With a dedicated connection, all the bandwidth you purchase is yours, all the time.
Do you know what is going on in your network, and how employees are using your bandwidth? Consider these usage categories.
Casual use. Streaming video on Facebook or music on Spotify, and watching HD videos on YouTube: these all consume bandwidth. Get enough people consuming bandwidth this way, and you could feel the impact on connection speed. Establish your casual use policy, and then enforce it.
High-impact business use. If you manage your own Exchange server and your organization relies heavily on email to share and transmit files internally and externally, you may experience a lot of traffic due to download/upload of email and attachments. One example of a common occurrence is someone returning from vacation. They open Outlook, and download a backlog of email to their computer or device, which can cause a noticeable slowdown lasting from a few moments to several minutes. You may want to consider a centralized platform for document sharing and project management such as Microsoft SharePoint. Employees save and access files on a user-friendly shared repository, which can be onsite or hosted in the cloud. This avoids bulky, file-heavy email traffic.
Backups and batch processing. If your organization uses a cloud backup service or file sharing/storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud, you may notice persistent or periodic slowdowns while these services work in the background to preserve your data. This may be especially noteworthy if you or one of your departments works with images or video, especially anything larger than a few megabytes. An upload or download of even one of these files will result in a temporary slowdown of other traffic.
Bulk/batch processing (for example, batch processing transactions) can affect your connection. Ask your IT department to schedule these processes during low-demand times (like overnight), if possible.
In addition to the troubleshooting tips provided above, if you still find yourself asking “Why is my Internet connection slow?”, a simple thing you can do is to unplug one computer at a time, running a speed test after each.
If you are in an area that doesn’t have super-fast connections available, ask your provider about purchasing a second connection. You can use it exclusively for your business-critical and real-time applications such as Voice over IP and video conferencing. Or you can add a load balancing & failover service to balance your network traffic between two circuits and ensure failover to one circuit should another fail.