We have all experienced the annoyance of a slow Internet connection. But as companies adopt more and more bandwidth-hungry applications, it might not be your connection to the outside world presenting a problem. Rather, you and your employees may be plagued by a slow Local Area Network (LAN).
In most offices, Ethernet switches connect computers and servers to the LAN. A common Fast Ethernet connection transfers data at about 100 megabits per second. So no matter how fast and effective your company’s servers and Internet connection may be, workers cannot receive data at speeds faster than their Ethernet connection will allow.
In the past, this was rarely a problem. Most employees – even those considered “information workers” – relied on the network primarily to retrieve email and pull files off of local servers. Now, however, many employees place much greater strains on the network in the course of doing their jobs effectively:
- CRM and other applications have shifted employees away from working on their PC’s hard drives. Instead, they are working on applications that are hosted or in the cloud. As a result, employees are continually bombarding the network with data transmissions.
- Commonly used applications are growing richer each year. A few years ago, PowerPoint presentations typically included some colorful backgrounds and text. Today, they may include many large photos, audio files, video files and more.
- Employees are being asked to watch videos for training and conduct video conferences from their cubicles.
- Workers also enjoy non-sanctioned applications that strain network bandwidth. Pandora isn’t a critical business application, but it can slow down network performance nonetheless.
To speed LAN performance, many companies are upgrading their standard Ethernet switches to gigabit Ethernet connections. A gigabit Ethernet switch transmits data at speeds of about 1 gigabit per second – 10 times greater than Fast Ethernet switches.
Fortunately, gigabit switches are growing more affordable for everyone. To get the full benefit of the switch, every component in the network, including computers, needs to be gigabit compliant. Also, keep in mind that upgrading to gigabit switches will not increase the speed of your outside Internet connection. It will only speed up the transmission of data on your LAN.
An example of a high-quality gigabit Ethernet switch is the NetVanta 1600 series by Adtran. This series offers 48 gigabit Ethernet ports, with or without Power over Ethernet (PoE), and two high-speed interface slots, which can accommodate up to four 10-gigabit Ethernet links. This means that users can benefit from up to 80 Gbps between interconnected NetVanta 1638 switches for the most bandwidth-intensive applications.