Where is Your Cloud Bandwidth Bottleneck?

When speaking with companies and schools about moving to cloud solutions like Google Apps and Google Cloud Storage, we are often asked about bandwidth demands.  Many organizations worry that their current Internet connections are not sufficient for cloud computing.  While most organizations already have more than enough Internet bandwidth, they may still have performance bottlenecks from their internal network.

Many small and mid-size enterprises make infrastructure decisions, electing to save money with consumer grade and so-called “SMB” products.  In many instances, these products are not designed to handle business traffic.

WiFi Access Points: Low-end WiFi Access Points, or WAPs, are not designed for a large number, or large traffic, connections.  While these devices claim they can support dozens of devices, the reality is that their antennae systems, channel management, and software are not up  to the task.  These devices can bog down with collisions, reducing the effective bandwidth to near zero with as few as 5 or 10 active users.

Switches and Hubs: The same load considerations exist for low-end switches and hubs, particularly those with slower back-planes and less memory.  Traffic bursts can overload these devices, creating “collisions” that slow down your network.

Routers: Many entry level and SMB routers do not have the processor or back-plane speed needed to meet the traffic demands for today’s network.  The router between your network and the Internet needs to be fast, with the ability to buffer traffic, and provide network services.  While changing to cloud solutions may not dramatically alter the amount of traffic, it changes the pattern.  An underpowered router can slow traffic like a broken toll booth gate.

For most small and mid-size businesses, network performance planning for cloud solutions should start at the ends and work towards the middle.  Look at your Direct Internet Access capacity and your WiFi and move inwards to the router, hubs, and switches.  A well planned network will improve performance, reliability, and productivity.