How to Prevent Bottlenecks That Occur With LANs & WANs

by Jacob Andrew

Bottlenecks cause audio to stutter, video to jitter and Web pages to stop. Preventing bottlenecks begins with your slowest connection and works back to your individual computers. In most environments, the Internet represents your biggest bottleneck, and upgrading its speed goes a long way toward bottleneck prevention. In addition to the Internet speed, you can prevent bottlenecks with faster switches, additional wires and upgraded standards.

Check Your Speed

The slowest connection under your control is the Internet connection. While a switch or wireless radio can run as fast as 1Gbps, even the fastest Internet available to consumers only offers a little over 50Mbps. You should purchase an Internet bandwidth package that meets your household or business needs. Consider how many devices will access the Internet and what those devices will do. Simple usage, such as browsing, requires little bandwidth. A single device streaming high-definition video, however, can demand as much as 5Mbps. Online gaming, additionally, demands as much as 3Mbps. Calculate your Internet connection based on how many of these services happen simultaneously -- if you expect someone will be gaming online while another person streams an HD video, make sure you have an Internet download speed faster than 8Mbps.

Switch to Something Better

Your Internet commonly connects to a combination router and switch. Switches handle communication within your LAN and operate at different maximum speeds. For decades, Fast Ethernet has been the norm, offering 100Mbps. When possible, however, purchase a switch or router with gigabit Ethernet ports. Even though your Internet connection, at the most, represents one-twentieth of your bandwidth, this switch also handles communication between all devices. The faster it can handle that communication -- which includes network printing, file sharing and more -- the less likely it is to slow down other functions, such as Internet browsing or video streaming.

Clear the Airwaves

Most homes and business utilize wireless to share connections. Wireless is convenient, but less consistent in how it offers bandwidth. This is because a single wireless radio’s bandwidth capabilities are shared with every connected device. Five devices, with a clear signal, can only communicate at a theoretical max bandwidth of roughly 10Mbps on an 802.11g network. When possible, connect your devices via a wired connection. This helps your wireless-only devices perform better.

Give Yourself an Upgrade

When wireless is a necessity for many devices, make sure both your devices and the access point are using the latest technology. The most common, high-speed wireless available is 802.11n, which can achieve speeds at least eight times faster than its predecessor, 802.11g. Ratified in 2013 is 802.11ac, which offers a maximum wireless bandwidth of more than 1Gbps; however, equipment supporting this standard costs more. Investing in the fastest standard for both your wireless access point and devices saves you bandwidth congestion headaches down the road.

About the Author

Jacob Andrew previously worked as an A+ and CCNA-certified technology specialist. After receiving his BA in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2012, he turned his focus towards writing about travel, politics and current technology.

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