Navigating a pandemic has radically impacted the way virtually every business operates. We’ve had to adapt at speed, adopt new technologies and work in ways many of us never imagined.
But as restrictions ease and teams are encouraged back into the office, it’s not as simple as returning to normal. Working practices have changed for good and whether you’re all back on site, scattered far and wide or somewhere in between, it’s essential your organisation’s connectivity infrastructure can cope, evolve – and help you thrive.
At Backbone Connect, we’re helping clients across the UK find their feet in a changed world, so we’ve put together this practical guide to help you get off to the best possible start. It highlights key pressure points to consider as you move towards a positive, productive, post-Covid future.
Is your infrastructure fit for purpose?
Your network infrastructure fundamentally underpins all the tech applications and services your business consumes on site – making your essential day-to-day operations possible. So what does it include? Well, your internet connection, routers, firewall, switching and wireless access points – all the fibre and hardware you need in place to do everything you do.
But here’s the thing about that infrastructure. It’s only as strong as its weakest link. And because the way so many of us work has changed, links that might have been strong enough before the pandemic could well be under significant pressure now.
New pressures and expectations
The chances are, you’re more reliant on real-time video and voice applications than ever – using Zoom and Microsoft Teams to enable your new flexible, remote or hybrid working models. But whether you’re keeping in touch with clients or colleagues, this type of application is highly sensitive to congestion, causing poor user experience, dropped calls or audio and video delay.
While connection hiccups might have been forgiven during the early days of lockdown, as this type of working becomes the norm, people will rightly expect you to have a handle on it, and to optimise their experiences with you. Continuous technical issues may soon wear thin, risking higher client and colleague churn. So, which elements of your infrastructure might need strengthening?
4 common causes of connectivity congestion and delay
1 - Internet connection
Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams put their bandwidth requirement at a little over 2Mb per user, based on a high-definition (HD) video meeting. So, if you’re relying on those applications regularly, you need to make sure your connection has enough capacity to provide that bandwidth to all, or at least the majority, of your team, at the same time.
And beyond that, you’ll need the capacity to serve whatever other cloud-based applications your people are likely to be using to get their jobs done. The best place to start is by asking your internet service provider (ISP) for a traffic report, showing your current and historic activity.
If you don’t think you’re getting the speed you need, it’s also a good idea to run a speed test. Google’s quick, easy speed test tool gives you answers fast, and completely free. Ideally, do this while you’re connected directly to your supplier’s equipment so you can get a clear, accurate picture of whether their connection’s performing as expected.
2 - Routers and firewalls
Security remains crucial to running a trusted, effective business. But while next-generation firewalls with advanced features like IPS or IDS (intrusion prevention or detection service) are great for keeping trouble out of your systems, they can inadvertently cause problems too.
Make sure you tell your firewall, router or gateway to trust or whitelist any voice and video application traffic. Otherwise you could find your built-in security features decide to subject that traffic to rigorous inspection, causing serious performance and experience issues.
3 - Switching systems
If you consume files, data, applications and services from local servers and the cloud, it’s important to make sure the arrangement of your switching system doesn’t create bottlenecks, which can lead to serious congestion during busy periods.
Check that your Quality of Service has been updated and fully implemented, taking into account your increased need for video and voice calling. That way, when congestion inevitably does occur, the network can prioritise that essential, real-time traffic, reducing packet loss, jitter and latency to keep user experience smooth and stress free.
4 - Wireless access points
If your wifi hasn’t been implemented properly, it can introduce significant delays and frustrations. So, make sure access points are in the best possible positions for the coverage and capacity you need. To optimise user experience, it’s also important to make sure your systems steer wireless users towards the less congested 5Ghz band, wherever possible.
Tools you can tap into
If you’re using Microsoft Teams, it can help you assess your network, giving you bandwidth calculations and network requirements across your organisation’s physical locations. Just go to the Teams admin centre and open up the network planner tool. It’ll ask for your network details and Teams usage, then calculate the network requirements you need to successfully deploy Teams and cloud voice services across your premises.
What to do next...
Keeping up with changing connectivity needs is an essential part of maintaining your organisation’s resilience, reliability and reputation. If you haven’t got the expertise in-house, at Backbone Connect we’re happy to guide you through it. Our experts can help you understand whether your infrastructure’s fit for purpose and, more than that, whether it’s fully optimised to give your people, and your clients, the kind of experience they deserve.