Top 3 Network Congestion Issues
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

From the onslaught of SaaS, to the widespread adoption of cloud, to leveraging the Internet to connect stakeholders across the WAN, there are no lack of special projects that IT has to manage at any given time.

In the midst of steering transformations like SD-WAN and DIA adoption, teams need to also execute on their day-to-day marching orders of ensuring end users can leverage the network with minimal interruption. But with employees using the network to support multiple devices and a growing stable of applications (business-critical and otherwise), network congestion has emerged as a common hindrance to performance that’s chronic across enterprises.

While there are countless factors that can contribute to network congestion, there are a few conditions that tend to be the biggest culprit (while having the most negative impact on the network).

Old-school hardware

Almost every enterprise has increased their network capacity and speeds of late (or soon will) to meet the growing demands of the enterprise (ie. more remote users, more collaboration tools to connect them, etc.). Simply paying your ISP for more bandwidth, however, isn’t the silver bullet to supporting greater demands on network capacity.

Teams also need to upgrade the switches, servers, routers and other hardware they use to support the network to ensure they aren’t straining legacy appliances that were simply never designed to support the “new normal” where capacity is involved. This extends to upgrading the tools in an IT team’s management and monitoring stack to ensure teams are employing the latest monitoring points, for instance, to glean all of the necessary, granular detail into network performance teams require.

Capacity “hogs”

The rise of SaaS and web apps has also been a contributing factor to network congestion on a few different fronts. While it’s true that SaaS platforms tend to leverage less capacity than legacy, hardware-based tools, the ease with which these apps can be downloaded and deployed has led to the rise of shadow IT, ie. users veering from the enterprise-approved stable of apps to download tools of their own choosing.

While not always conducted with ill-intent, shadow IT puts the onus on enterprise teams to keep clear visibility into all the apps and users on the network to zero in on programs that could be sapping up bandwidth at the expense of more important tools.

It’s not just a single app, either, as users are often leveraging the enterprise network for non-business tools (ie. social media, streaming music, etc.). Some of the largest drains on capacity can be music or video apps, for instance, that could be demanding an outsized portion of network capacity on a per-user basis. Teams need to be able to pinpoint these apps and users and nip any misbehavior in the bud before the larger business is impacted.

Poor network design

When looking at network hardware, the layout of the network (as well as the methods for connecting stakeholders) need to evolve with the “new reality” of more crowded, decentralized enterprises. To help avoid congestion at key points in the network, teams can employ subnets (or VLANs) to help segment traffic at key locations, they can more intelligently (and predictably) route traffic to reduce the load on the larger network. Similarly, enterprises can establish Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) that serve external requests directly without impacting the performance of the larger WAN.

Another factor related to how networks are designed is that many of the largest organizations are doing away with hardware-based network layouts altogether, instead opting for an “Internet-first” (or even Internet-only) approach to connecting all of their network touchpoints. While, in theory, this will help make the WAN more agile and scalable as more locations, users and apps come online, it puts an even greater emphasis on the need for comprehensive monitoring to ensure traffic is following the best possible path from A to B.


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Tags: network bandwidth , bandwidth , network capacity , network monitoring and diagnostics , network monitoring , network performance , network management , apps , application management , SaaS , cloud computing , network performance monitoring