How to Optimize Your Bandwidth
Improving device and workstation performance at home and the office
Is your device speed slowing down? From a shutter during a video conference to poor performance on home laptops, phones and devices, increasing demands on bandwidth might be to blame.
Think of bandwidth as a pipe that a lot of data has to travel through from a site to you, and from you to other points via the internet. The bigger the pipe, the better. Bandwidth of 100Mbps will be much faster than a bandwidth of 10Mbps.
There are several issues that can affect bandwidth, including more people accessing resources. With a pandemic-driven plunge into remote working sending millions of workers home, bandwidth issues could worsen. You may have already noticed your home internet showing the strain, unless you are among the relatively few U.S. households with a fiber optic connection from your provider all the way to your house.
Businesses that are still operating essential services may notice a network slowdown as well. However, some problems were emerging before the pandemic, including how efficiently a company’s website operates.
Here are some explanations and solutions on optimizing bandwidth for individuals and businesses.
Is the internet the problem?
While there are a lot of demands on today’s internet, including the recent spike in traffic from laid off and work-from-home people, the internet is handling the load according to industry experts. Even with the massive capacity needed to handle streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Zoom, there is no evidence of network issues. Arvig’s network is fully adapted to handle any anticipated increases in internet traffic and bandwidth demand during the COVID-19 crisis.
If you are experiencing internet issues now more than ever, there are other culprits, and also remedies.
The ‘last mile’
A telecommunications industry term, the “last mile” refers to the link that connects your home to the ultra-high-speed internet backbone of your provider. There may be fiber optic lines near your neighborhood, but between that connection and the end user (your home), the connection is often a coaxial cable or phone line with smaller bandwidth capability.
Your connection has two speeds—a download speed coming into your home that is faster than the upload speed when you send information out over the internet. When you are on a video conference at home, information is sent both ways.
Simultaneous sessions on the same line (like your teenager playing online video games while you are on a video conference) can slow down the upstream channel and disrupt your entire service line. To avoid this, you can switch to audio only mode on your conference by turning off your video feed, and set household rules about other activities during your work time, such as avoiding multiplayer online games.
You could also order a service upgrade, but check with your provider first. Some have special programs in response to the COVID-19 crisis, including Arvig’s Education Assistance Program to help families with school-age children.
In the future, additional fiber optic networking and providing wireless broadband with increased bandwidth will eliminate the majority of “last mile” issues.
Does my home network need an upgrade?
Maybe. Your main hub for service is a modem—the box connected by the cable coming into your house—which is usually supplied by your provider. If your modem is a few years old, ask your provider to swap it out for a newer model. An older model may not be delivering the full bandwidth you are paying for.
The other essential piece is your Wi-Fi router. Sometimes this is built into your modem, but often is a stand-alone unit to wirelessly disperse your signal throughout your home.
You can obtain a Wi-Fi router from your provider. However, you can also buy your own, which is recommended if you have a challenging set up such as a large home.
Think of your wireless router as a big antenna. Make sure to place it in a central location and keep it unobstructed. A router may not be the prettiest thing to look at, but you do not want to keep it inside a cabinet or even on a low shelf. You can add satellite stations to some newer routers to boost your signal out to the garage or other distant rooms.
Bypass the router entirely and connect your computer to the modem with an ethernet cable (looks like a fat phone connector) for the fastest internet connection for video conferencing and other uses that tax bandwidth.
Cell phone bandwidth
The “G” in your cell phone connection, i.e. 3G, 4G and now 5G, has to do with speed and bandwidth. Currently the most common is 4G, which refers to the Fourth Generation of internet connectivity, includes new technical features and higher bandwidth.
“Using 4G you will expect 30 times faster connection than 3G depending on coverage,” according to Steven Trugbild, with MobilizeToday.com. “4G and Wi-Fi have almost the same bandwidth. The difference between them is in range. Wi-Fi is targeted to cover low range networks, while 4G was designed to replace high range mobile networks.”
To get the most out of bandwidth, mobile users should tap into a 4G or higher network, or use Wi-Fi. Businesses should still develop websites optimized for 3G so that information displays quickly on the most devices.
Every mobile app also uses bandwidth- some more than others. You can use this free tool to track bandwidth use on an Android phone, or here to track traffic on an iOS phone.
You will also use bandwidth when connected to Wi-Fi. If everyone in the household is spending more time at home, this could create slow connections. A good practice, whether on Wi-Fi or mobile data, is to close all apps when done using them.
Some wireless providers have added free data to help those affected by COVID-19. Verizon Wireless added 15 GB of free data across nearly all plans, which can be used as a mobile hotspot, through the end of April.
For companies- Does your website have enough bandwidth?
People browsing the internet have little patience. If your website loads slowly, you will lose customers. There are several bandwidth related reasons for a slow performing website.
If you have a video banner and content that is heavy with photos, you need more bandwidth for a smooth user experience. First, make sure media is optimized before loading it on the site. The file size of an image coming out of a digital camera is huge compared to the size it needs to be displayed on a website. Another alternative is to host site videos on a separate server like Vimeo or YouTube.
If your file sizes are ok but your site is still having issues, find a website host that can support the full bandwidth of your site. You can check the size of your website pages using a free tool at webpagetest.org.
As your business increases, there may be a significant increase in traffic, or number of people trying to access your website at once. Again, a larger amount of bandwidth will be necessary to accommodate this load. You want to have enough capacity for all interested users to enter your website. Otherwise, it’s like putting out the electronic version of a “We’re Closed” sign.
Improve your business network bandwidth
Your business network may have been running fine, then boom, a new application hampers performance. As companies add services and applications to their network that can be accessed internally by staff and externally by customers, demand on network resources also increases which can put a strain on bandwidth. Businesses often turn toward buying more costly hardware, but there may be better solutions.
Network monitoring and optimization software can affordably identify trouble spots and help free up network capacity without changing hardware. Check out these suggestions from dnsstuff.com to optimize your network bandwidth.
It’s in your hands
We all want fast speed and no interruption across our internet connected equipment and devices. For the most part, it is up to individuals and businesses to assess why slow downs or stutters happen, and take steps to optimize bandwidth use.