by November 5, 2002 0 comments

A closer look at what you will see on the screen of a portable hardware network protocol analyzer

Simply put, bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. For a network, it is measured in bits per second, while for devices like hard disks, it’s measured in bytes per second. When the amount of data that has to be transmitted exceeds the bandwidth limit, the network experiences a slowdown. That’s when it becomes important to do bandwidth management. It involves analyzing the network and identifying the potential bottlenecks. For this, the knowledge of your network infrastructure is very important because the cause of slowdown may be something other than a lack of bandwidth. For all you know, it might be insufficient RAM in your proxy server that’s causing slow Net connects, or a client on your network has locked up your file server with some task. 

There are many benefits to doing bandwidth management. If it’s your Internet bandwidth, then proper management can lead to faster access to information, thereby leading to higher employee productivity. Since bandwidth is being properly utilized, you don’t have to worry about upgrading to higher speed, thereby saving you the additional cost. If it’s bandwidth on your local area network, then better management can speed up communication and data sharing. It also gives you the scope of deploying more applications such as ERP on the network, without considering an upgrade of the infrastructure. To do bandwidth management, you must be able to identify the causes of congestion.

Causes of congestion
The causes of congestion for a local area network can be different from an Internet connection. The Internet connection can be saturated due to heavy downloads, online chatting, gaming and performing other intensive tasks such as video streaming. Heavy usage of e-mail can be another cause of congestion. That’s because other than regular mail, there’s a lot of spam and viruses that also get passed around. On the other hand, a network can be clogged due to a lot of broadcast traffic. There might even be some bad network cards throwing junk traffic on the network. Broadcast traffic is used by applications to make others aware that they exist. Other than that, there are also some protocols like NetBEUI and IPX/SPS that create a lot of network traffic. 

Resolving bandwidth issues
Once the causes of congestion have been identified, one needs to find ways of resolving them. For managing Internet bandwidth, you need to analyze your employees’ Internet-usage patterns, and identify the problem areas. This will tell you whether you need to upgrade to higher bandwidth, or are your employees’ MP3 collections growing by the day? It doesn’t take much guessing to figure out where the bandwidth is going if the answer to this is yes. 

Bandwidth management can be done using a host of solutions. For managing the Internet traffic, you can use either software or hardware-based solutions. If there’s heavy Internet surfing going on, then you probably need to set up a Web-filtering software like CyberPatrol or Websense. The former in this case can actually determine who’s accessing which website and generate reports on the browsing patterns. These can then be used to block objectionable websites. Websense, on the other hand, does website filtering. It has a huge list of websites divided by category, which the administrator can set.

Software-based solutions can also allocate specific amounts of bandwidth for a particular task. Hardware-based solutions are usually dedicated solutions and they’re available according to the amount of bandwidth you want to manage. Usually, some of the features in these hardware-based solutions include policy based bandwidth limits, deny by content type, access control based on users, groups, network addresses, etc; content prepositioning, and caching. On the e-mail front, what’s needed is some sort of spam control mechanism at the mail server end so that the spam mail doesn’t trickle down to the individual clients. 

On the network bandwidth front, you need protocol analyzers placed at key locations on your network for monitoring the traffic, possibly your network backbone or on each network segment. Alternately, you could use a hardware based protocol analyzer that can be carried around to different places. 

Anil Chopra

NetReality WiseWan

WiseWAN is a combination of hardware and software to control the
priority of application traffic flowing across your WAN links. It
can be used by large companies to ensure their important
applications get the required bandwidth. The solution consists of
three components: a hardware box, a data collection server and a
desktop monitoring and control software. The hardware box sits on
your WAN link and compares traffic flowing through it against the
QoS policies you’ve defined. The data collection server stores all
the data being collected by the hardware box, and the
desktop-monitoring software can use this data to display the WAN
link status as well as define policies to control the traffic.

can distinguish more than 450 different types of known applications.
It also has an option for controlling unidentified or proprietary
applications. It only starts prioritizing application traffic when
it detects congestion. After this it compares the traffic against
the policies you’ve defined and balances applications accordingly.
Policies can be defined based on the type of application, time of
day, or even the type of user. The monitoring features in WiseWan
display the overall network status, and real-time status of traffic.
There are service-level management tools to ensure that your links
are up and running. The solution’s reporting capabilities let you
view which applications and protocols are being used and by whom.
Alarms can also be set to ensure that the network administrator
knows when there’s a problem.

WiseWan pricing is based on the amount of bandwidth
you want to control. 

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