For managed services providers (MSPs), using the right tools and resources to ensure maximum uptime for their customers’ critical services and devices is one of the most important parts of the job. One of the infrastructure factors that may limit uptime and performance is network bandwidth, which is why MSPs need network usage monitoring tools that allow them to monitor traffic patterns and device performance for signs of potential issues.
Bandwidth monitoring can quickly become complicated as an MSP business scales and you begin to manage network systems for enterprise-level customers. Network administration and management become more difficult as the complexity and workload of customer networks increases. In order to make monitoring and management strategies as effective as possible—even in the face of complex networks—here are eight network bandwidth optimization strategies MSPs should employ.
1. Adopt network bandwidth usage monitoring software
It’s hard to identify the root cause of a problem when you don’t even know there’s an issue to begin with, which is why bandwidth monitoring software is essential for MSPs. Enterprise bandwidth monitors provide visibility into complex, distributed networks and application activity.
These tools are designed to monitor and analyze network traffic patterns, providing insights you can use to reorganize customer nodes to contain the majority of baseline traffic within predefined segments of the infrastructure, which keeps traffic from being routed all across the network. Not only that, monitoring network traffic can help you pass savings along to your customers by ensuring that they’re only buying the hardware they need to support their actual network traffic.
2. Establish baselines
The first step of accurate bandwidth optimization is to gather enough data to have an accurate understanding of your customers’ current network performance, bandwidth usage, and typical traffic patterns. This may seem obvious, but it’s critical to not overlook this step. Once you establish what optimal baselines look like for the devices and infrastructure you manage, you’ll be able to identify anomalies faster and more effectively target your troubleshooting efforts. Using enterprise bandwidth monitoring software with network performance monitoring capabilities is essential for real-time visibility into your customers’ systems.
3. Map network topology
Given the scale and complexity of modern networks, providing fixes and services that meet the varied needs and specifications of your different customers is critical. A one-size-fits-all solution for maximizing network bandwidth isn’t always going to be the most effective, which is why it’s important to map the topology of your customers’ networks early on.
Topology mapping creates a visual rendering of the various connections, relationships, and dependencies between network elements, which can be useful in revealing how previously unnoticed secondary traffic is impacting network performance. Topology maps typically represent network relationships on different layers, including physical location, transmission relationships, and by routing and traffic control elements within multi-node networked environments.
The visibility provided by topology mapping can be especially beneficial when it comes to optimizing your monitoring strategies and practices. Topology mapping is one way of improving a network’s performance, as these maps can be used to quickly determine the root cause of any performance issues your customers’ dependent resources are facing.
Topology mapping is also a useful tool for improving the productivity of your team—while simultaneously reducing costs—which is why adopting a tool like N-able™ N-central is critical for keeping tabs on a network’s infrastructure and its interconnectivity. RMM includes a topology mapping feature that can create endpoint maps based on performance monitoring alerts and notifications, which can help direct your troubleshooting efforts and make your resolution time that much faster.
If your customer networks aren’t operating efficiently, one aspect to examine is whether a different network topology might be more appropriate. Furthermore, you should also check whether additional subnets might be necessary to support different aspects of your customers’ computing environments while maintaining everyone’s reliable access to the network. This ultimately helps to keep workloads distributed and reduces the likelihood of your customers’ networks experiencing bottlenecks.
4. Schedule tasks for low-traffic periods
Hogging valuable network bandwidth during working hours to take care of long-overdue updates isn’t ideal. The good news is that the best bandwidth monitoring software options include remote access tools and scripting capabilities that allow you to schedule when to deliver bulk configuration changes, patches, software updates, and other fixes across your customer networks.
Scheduling these changes to run after hours helps keep customer devices maintained and secure—without interrupting their network uptime during work hours. This also holds true for backups, which can be extremely data intensive. If your customers expect daily backups, make sure to schedule them for off-peak hours so you don’t cause unnecessary downtime.
5. Use a load-balancing service
Load balancers redistribute demand across devices to more even levels, which helps prevent overloads and slowdowns. If a customer has two web servers, for instance, the advantage of a load balancer is that it won’t just help distribute traffic in overflow situations—it will also equalize the total load across both servers.
This helps to maximize the value that the infrastructure adds to your customer’s business, keep demand consistent, and prevent incoming traffic from targeting one network link at a time (which can potentially overload the network). Implementing network usage monitoring tools to work in tandem with load balancers is a very effective method of maximizing bandwidth.
6. Optimize network application priorities
When bandwidth is limited, which services get priority? Your answer—and how you plan to enforce it—is inevitably going to impact network performance in some way. For instance, customers’ critical applications need to deliver high uptime and performance, meaning they need guaranteed access to bandwidth and must be prioritized over non-critical applications and systems. On the other hand, applications like video conferencing and VoIP tools are inherently bandwidth-intensive, but they may not necessarily need to be prioritized over other critical services. .
Bandwidth monitoring software provides an efficient method for tracking the top talkers and bandwidth hogs on your network, which can inform any updates to your customers’ priorities policies. If your customers work with sensitive data and require network-wide encryption and filtering, keep in mind that this will likely have an impact on the network’s transfer rates.
One method for eliminating excess and unauthorized network traffic is to create policies about how the business network may be accessed, as well as which sites and services it may be used to access. Creating and maintaining up-to-date blocklists and allowlists for applications and sites can help simplify the process of guaranteeing access for certain business-critical bandwidth-intensive services while restricting access to others that could be negatively affecting network performance. Developing an email attachment policy with your customers is another way to standardize how data is transmitted over the network between end users, which contributes to more efficient system operations.
7. Minimize personal use of bandwidth
Some customers may be more lenient than others when it comes to allowing their employees to access company bandwidth for personal use, but the additional traffic and personal devices connected to the network increases overall system load and the potential for security risks. Working with your customers to implement least-privilege best practices and establish clear, enforceable guidelines for what constitutes authorized and unauthorized use is another way you can help keep precious bandwidth available.
8. Invest in cloud-based tools
The quality of cloud services can rely heavily on your company’s operating practices. Your business may possibly collaborate with many external firms. In these instances, putting many of the business’s supporting apps on the cloud can aid communications and take away gratuitous traffic from your network.
Companies that hire a lot of remote workers and freelancers can benefit significantly by adopting cloud-based network configurations. By routing your customers’ network traffic, data backups, and web applications to the cloud and offsite services, you’re also helping to free up bandwidth and minimize overload on the network.
Maximizing network bandwidth with the right tools
As we’ve discussed, optimizing network bandwidth for your customers requires diligent monitoring, understanding standard bandwidth usage, and a variety of strategies to ensure optimal availability. Although it goes beyond just having the right software, there’s no doubt that having the right tools in your toolkit can make a big difference in ensuring your MSP is able to serve its customers.
When it comes to network bandwidth, a tool with a network topology mapping feature is critical in providing visibility into complex networks. By providing an easily digestible, visual representation of the connections between network elements, MSPs can better understand potential performance issues and drill down into the dependencies that may be causing problems.
For a reliable all-in-one solution that provides built-in network topology mapping alongside robust remote monitoring features, consider N-able N-central. By incorporating network topology mapping with a slew of other powerful features that can optimize bandwidth—such as content filtering that allows you to blocklist sites that unnecessarily use up network bandwidth—you can maximize uptime for your customers and prevent overloaded networks. To learn more, try a 30-day free trial of N-able RMM.