Instant access is the new normal. When customers, employees, or partners hit the Enter key, they expect an immediate response. An inability to meet such high expectations diminishes a brand’s reputation, lowers productivity, and increases churn. A number of items impact network performance, so let’s take a look at what latency is, how it arises, and how to reduce it.

Latency is the time that elapses between when a request for data is made and the delivery of it occurs. Moving information from an end point to a central server and back again involves coordination among many different elements. Slowdowns can occur at many points. With networks, the focus is often on routers and switches. However, server processors, storage systems, end-user devices, application software, and a wide range of infrastructure software (security, operating systems, management tools) also impact response times.

A delay at any intersection disrupts communications, and problems follow.  Web page load times increase, audio and video streams (which are very sensitive to disruptions) fail, and applications drone on. Illustrating the impatience of today’s user, more than half (53%) of them will abandon a web page that takes three seconds or longer to load. Since businesses require an average of 15 seconds to perform that task, latency impacts companies much more than they realize. So, how can your firm avoid the problem?

Get a Measurement Tool or Service

The first step to ensuring adequate response times is understanding how well your network is working. Vendors sell performance management tools. In addition, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer services where they monitor connections and provide reports to customers.

Various types of monitoring solutions are available. Ping systems record a packet’s round-trip time from the source to the final destination. Traceroute products calculate the time that packets take traveling across a network by recording the time needed to process information at each host along a route. MTR blends elements of both Ping and Traceroute to track both delays at different points and total transit times.

Boost Bandwidth at Bottlenecks

Congestion increases the time needed to complete a transaction. Latency often arises when a number of devices try to access the same resource. Enterprises need to examine how their traffic flows with the help of a monitoring tool or service. The business then needs to identify their bottlenecks, network segments unable to handle incoming traffic. Historically, those points were in the data center where large volumes of reads and writes took place. With the advent of cloud computing, the low point often moves to outbound connections, those from the company to the cloud provider. Increasing the flawed segment’s bandwidth addresses such problems.

Check Network Cabling

Network cabling is an important conduit in corporate communications. Bits fly across coaxial, fiber, copper, and wireless connections. Cabling is sometimes installed and forgotten about. Like any other device, its performance sometimes diminishes over time because of wear and tear. A low quality, poorly maintained connection delays transmissions. Consequently, companies need to test their cabling periodically, establish usage baselines, and address instances where performance is falling.

Retool Your Routers

Firmware is a router’s internal instruction set. Increasingly, vendors update this software automatically, but that feature is not available on all devices. In the latter case, businesses must update their systems themselves. Taking that step ensures that the device has the latest software. Flaws with previous releases are fixed, so information flows faster.

Problems arise sometimes when routers automatically update system settings. The software encounters glitches, such as slowdowns because and refresh occurs on an older device with an outdated operating system or requires a lot of processing power to execute. The device’s processors overheat and throttle if run under too much stress. Periodically resetting a router clears any updating software gumming up the device and delivers more stable connections.

Optimize Application Design

The network is not always the culprit when slowdowns occur. Developers need to examine how their design influences network latency. In a growing number of cases, applications rely on large data sets. Developers want to get all of the corporate information in front of the customer ASAP; however, loading too much data drags down response time. In fact, 79% of pages are over 1MB, more than half (53%) greater than 2MB, and 23% over 4MB. Stress increases as data volumes grow, so retooling an application can improve performance.

As companies’ reliance on computers to run the business increases, delays become intolerable. Networks have become complex, so identifying potential problem spots has become challenging. By following these steps, an enterprise ensures that its network is an enabler  rather than an inhibitor to business performance.

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