Bandwidth Consumption

What Is Bandwidth Consumption?

Consumption of a network’s bandwidth occurs when data is either sent or received over a communication link. The higher the amount of data transmitted, the higher the consumption.

Bandwidth consumption is an essential parameter to monitor on networks to ensure sufficient bandwidth is available for high-priority/critical tasks and for employees and end-users to work uninterrupted.

What are the Common Culprits Behind High Bandwidth Consumption?

The primary causes behind high bandwidth consumption can be grouped into two broad categories:

1. Those are caused by the actions of users on the network. Some examples are:

  • Downloading large files or streaming high-definition videos or podcasts.
  • Visiting websites that are bandwidth-hoggers unintentionally.
  • Malware that compromises data or runs processes that demand lots of internet traffic, usually without the user’s knowledge or consent.

2. Network-level problems caused by the design, configuration, or performance of the network itself. Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • Poor subnet management.
  • Improper Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing.
  • Outdated or mismatched network hardware.
  • Network configuration issues that cause inefficient routing, switching, or firewalling of network traffic.
  • Over-subscription.

How Can One Reduce and Limit High-Bandwidth Usage on Networks?

There are several steps network admins can take to limit intentional or unintentional high bandwidth consumption in a network, such as:

  • Use of specialized bandwidth monitoring and management software to restrict the bandwidth of individual users or devices on a network based on individual role requirements.
  • Network admins can also set up alerts using the same software (if it supports this feature) to detect unusual or suspicious network traffic.
  • Admins should also scan the network frequently using antivirus or anti-malware tools and take immediate remedial action in case something is detected on the network.
  • Use of firewalls to block or restrict access to bandwidth-hogging websites.
  • Optimization of the quality of VoIP calls to suit the available bandwidth available.

Admins can reduce network-level problems by:

  • Planning and reconfiguring the network according to the expected traffic patterns and resource requirements.
  • Using network monitors to detect and prevent broadcast storms.
  • Using tools such as route reflectors or route filters to optimize Border Gateway Protocol routing.
  • Using the right network equipment as per requirements and keep them up to date.

The above points are but a few steps admins can take to manage bandwidth consumption better. It must be noted that this is a continual process, and admins must be on their toes in terms of monitoring, troubleshooting, and resolving any and all issues promptly.

What are the Key Features to Look Out For in a Bandwidth Monitoring Tool?

Network/bandwidth monitoring is complex and the right tool can make all the difference in an admin’s ability to stay on top of things. The following are some of the key features to look out for when deciding on a network monitoring tool:

  • Compatibility: Choose a tool that is compatible or can easily integrate with your existing network management infrastructure.
  • Support of granular monitoring: A robust bandwidth management tool should be able to give you a granular breakdown of bandwidth usage to be able to quickly pinpoint problem areas in a network.
  • Realtime alerts and analytics: A stitch in time saves nine, quite literally. Therefore, choose a tool that supports real-time monitoring and gives you all the insights you need to deal with issues before they spiral out of control.
  • An extensive feature list: Look for features like real-time network traffic assessment, Class-based Quality of Service (CBQoS) policy optimization, storm control, traffic shaping, and bandwidth threshold alerts.