Jamie DavisJamie Davis, Education and Product Manager

Would you like to be ahead of the curve for the next five to ten years? Would you like to be prepared for the future and be able to roll with the changes that are to come in computing? I can let you in on a secret to the future. I cannot tell you with 100 percent accuracy what 2011 will bring, or 2012, or 2016 for that matter. I can tell you one thing though; it will all depend on one key ingredient in your network: BANDWIDTH. If you don’t believe me, watch how much advertisement Sprint, Verizon, and soon AT&T spend on talking about their 4G network. Why do you care about a 4G network? Because 4G represents a significant increase in bandwidth availability to wireless devices. Again, why do you care? Because when devices can have excess bandwidth capacity, the functionality available to these devices will explode. Watch a little more TV and see how many times Comcast advertises their fast reliable commercial broadband. Think back, how often have you seen a company advertise their commercial business? B2B advertising via TV has never been too vogue but Comcast thinks the demand for broadband is worth their investment so they are pumping millions into making sure you know they have the solution once you realize you have a problem.

How do I know bandwidth is the key? Let’s examine a few key factors:

  1. With the development of HTML5, the web browser can behave more like the rest of your applications than ever before. (If you haven’t heard of HTML5, don’t worry. Just know that it is an advancement in web browsing that newer browsers are going to support and take advantage of.)
  2. Hardware can support more than ever before with high end servers becoming more affordable and virtualization technology offering ways to maximize hardware investments.
  3. Software companies needing to account for security, patching, standardization, redundancy, disaster recovery, etc. of their products.
  4. The availability in most areas of high end bandwidth for “affordable” rates. This one is the key. The first three offer great potential but without ways to push information across vast areas quickly, they offer only marginal help or improvements to the end user. With high bandwidth available, the first three factors can work together to provide great products that are secure, fast, up-to-date, standardized, and easy to use over a web interface.

A large number of institutions do not have enough bandwidth for their current needs. Our support staff takes calls weekly dealing with slowness or errors that typically get narrowed down to bandwidth issues. Imagine signing up for a water cooler service that brings in one five gallon water barrel per week. You started this service ten years ago when you had twelve employees and everyone was drinking soft drinks. After ten years, you now have thirty employees and many people have moved from soft drinks to water. Would one five gallon barrel a week still meet your needs? You would probably have to increase the number of barrels per week. Your bandwidth needs might be similar. You may have signed up for an Internet service five years ago and that was enough for the number of employees and usage then, but now the usage is higher and you have more employees.

As you go into 2011, examine your bandwidth options. What do you have now (be sure to note your upload and download speed)? Do you have an opportunity to increase your bandwidth? If so, what is the difference in cost? Put the new cost in your budget and see if it is approved. If not, do it again next year. Also, work with your firewall monitoring vendors about what traffic you can block and what traffic you can examine to see where your current usage is going. You might be able to free available bandwidth by blocking sites or applications that are not work-related. Bandwidth is going to be almost as critical as electricity, water, lights, and food are today. Go ahead and get your management team, directors, etc. on board with this concept and start looking to improve your bandwidth. Check competitors’ offerings and pricing yearly to ensure you are getting the best value for your money.

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