Are “Bandwidth Hogs” Slowing Your Network?

July 26th, 2016 by admin

Dials on a modern car showing a speedometer, tachometer, and other information

Last time, we talked about several handy do-it-yourself online tools to measure your office broadband speed. If your online connections aren't quite as fast as you expected from your service provider, don't be afraid to show them the "hard numbers" and ask for a solution.

But what if those speed tests appear quite acceptable, even though many of your workgroup's essential functions—VoIP phone calls, videoconferencing, remote file access, and more—are still plagued by spotty quality and annoying lag?

The problem may actually be a hardware issue on your end—one or more networked devices that regularly consume heavy shares of precious wi-fi bandwidth. In that case, it's time to go hunting… for bandwidth hogs.

It Starts at the Router

Your first step in isolating bandwidth-hogging devices is auditing your wireless router's bandwidth distribution—to literally see "what's going where." Most newer name brand routers come bundled with their own quality-of-service (QoS) firmware enabling you to easily track every active client on the local network (identified by their IP or MAC address). In many cases, you can mitigate bandwidth issues by manually configuring the router to devote more bandwidth resources to high-priority uses (VoIP, streaming media) while limiting traffic for secondary needs (routine software updates, web browsing).

If you can't locate your router's QoS app, another option is DD-WRT, a popular downloadable open source (not-for-profit) router monitor compatible with many brands. While installing and customizing DD-WRT "from scratch" can be tricky for a non-IT person (we'd recommend against it), many affordable new router models come with DD-WRT pre-configured. Similar free utilities include GargoyleNetworkMiner, and Capsa.

Tracking Down the Culprit(s): Troubleshooting and Tweaks

Once active connections are audited at the router, it's fairly easy to pinpoint obvious bandwidth bottlenecks. What immediate steps can you take to alleviate choke points within your local network?

  • Terminate any unauthorized wireless connections (neighbors or other bandwidth "pirates").
  • Free up local wi-fi by hardwiring as many devices as possible via high-speed Ethernet connections.
  • Position essential wireless devices as physically close to the router as possible.
  • Determine which devices can operate on 5GHz versus 2.4GHz. While the 2.4GHz channel has a longer local range, devices sharing the 5GHz channel generally encounter less interference.
  • For individual workstations that inexplicably gobble up huge chunks of bandwidth, check Windows Task Manager and Resource Meter for strange high-volume connections that may be bots—malware used by hackers to discreetly send hundreds of spam emails per day.

At the end of the day, your expanding company may be simply outgrowing its current broadband bandwidth limits—and it's time to look toward the future. For more ideas on getting the most out of your network resources, talk to us.

Posted in: Hardware and Software