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What to think about for UFB and your business

19 Jan 2017

I keep hearing about new ultra-fast broadband services, what do I need to think about when upgrading my business?

Only a few short years ago I wrote about my experience being one of the first few hundred ultra-fast broadband (UFB) customers. I had a 30/10 UFB connection and was the envy of all my friends stuck on DSL.

Fast forward a few years and I am on a 100Mbps unlimited plan and regularly use 300-400GB of data due to the use of all the streaming content and online gaming – Teenagers!

I am now in the slow camp in terms of UFB access with 200Mbps and even 1Gbps access speeds available.  These faster access options now mean that in many cases the capability of your UFB connection may exceed the performance capability of your router, and that goes for home and business users alike.

Let’s start with Wi-Fi. Depending on how old your router is and what Wi-Fi protocol (802.11x) you are using, the speed of your connection may be limited.

For example, 802.11g at a maximum of 54Mbps is slower than most modern UFB connections, and even more modern Wi-Fi may not support UFB access speeds. To maximise performance you should ensure that you have a modern router that supports the newer Wi-Fi speeds.

By nature, Wi-Fi will impact router performance and impact Internet speed. A simple speed test at my home showed a 15Mbps drop in performance when using Wi-Fi, compared to using the wired Ethernet port.

The other critical factor in router performance is how hard you push the router. If your traffic is fairly symmetrical in nature and also contains lots of small packets of data, then the performance of your router will noticeably change. Think of a packet as an envelope; if you wrote a long letter and put it in one envelope it’s much easier to deliver than that same message cut up and each paragraph sent in a different envelope.

Turn on more services like Quality of Service (QoS), firewall and security applications, or connect more devices, and router performance will suffer even more. Our own tests show that processor capability has a big impact on router performance. This is of particular interest to business users who are more likely to have traffic profiles and services running like I have described above.

The impact of hitting the ceiling in terms of processor performance is that you get unexpected performance hits. To clarify this, one of the benefits of using QoS is the ability to protect critical services from ‘bursty’ applications like the internet. But if you are over driving the router, you can impact all of the traffic regardless of prioritisation.

One of the less considered impacts of buying a faster UFB connection is that you may need a more expensive router to maintain performance. I think this is a fact overlooked by many businesses, particularly when moving to higher speed accesses.

It’s important to look beyond the headline speeds reported for the router and see what happens to performance when you turn on more services. Most reputable router manufacturers will show this in their specs, you will be surprised how quickly the router performance drops depending on traffic type and the services turned on.

Related to this issue is how much your service provider contends the backhaul or internet links. A simple analogy is even a Ferrari can only go as fast as the rest of the traffic on the motorway.

The last thing you want is to pay for bandwidth that you don’t get to utilise, or to suffer unexpected network issues related to under spec’d network equipment. Talk to your service provider about this and remember to look beyond the headline speeds and review the actual network performance.

Article by Murray Goodman, head of product, Kordia.

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