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Who’s stealing all the bandwidth?

Click…wait. Click…wait. Click…ARGH! Sounds like someone is running out of bandwidth.  

What is bandwidth?  

Bandwidth is a lot like plumbing. The bigger the pipes, the more water can flow through. Similarly, the more bandwidth you have, the more data you can send or receive at any given time. 

An internet connection with a larger bandwidth can move a set amount of data (say, a video file) much faster than an internet connection with a lower bandwidth. However, be aware that with greater bandwidth comes greater cost and responsibility.

Is someone or something taking your bandwidth? 

Our dedicated team of experts has put together a list for you to help you determine who/what’s stealing all the bandwidth? Don’t fall victim to these bandwidth bandits! 

Who’s stealing all the bandwidth?

Not so long ago, it would have been ridiculous to ask an employer to give you free TV, free movies, free music and a free TV camera and crew at your house in case you wanted to work from home and conduct a meeting with coworkers. Yet, with the internet, all of these things and more are at the fingertips of most office employees and their remote counterparts. Naturally, a growing number of employees will use some or all of these services for personal use while under your roof and on the clock wasting your valuable bandwidth.

Many employees use much more bandwidth than necessary to do their jobs. As a business owner, what can you do about it? First of all, you’ve got to let your employees know that bandwidth is more than a commodity. Just like electricity, water, and leasing building space, bandwidth is a necessary expense you need to keep your business running. But unlike all the other expenses, the amount of bandwidth you truly need varies based on the workload and what you allow. It can be overused by employees who stream videos, stream music or play video games between completing company tasks. So, what are the most abused “Bandwidth Bandits”? Let’s take a look.

VIDEO:

Does your company upload or store video content on a daily basis? Many companies do these days, especially for marketing and training purposes. In addition to these, what about the videos that are being watched inbetween company projects? Viewing TV shows or movies online uses about 1 GB of data per hour for standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for HD video. Downloading and streaming consume about the same amount of data. Since just about everything online is HD quality, you can see that those streaming and storing video content are usually the guiltiest bandwidth abusers in your office.

WI-FI:

Everything that is available to your employees through their internet connection is available through Wi-Fi. The extra strains Wi-Fi puts on bandwidth are caused by the users who connect their phones to Wi-Fi so they can save on their personal data plan. At no extra cost to them, they can stream video and surf online on their phones. Some people even use their phones to play video games while on (or off) their lunch breaks. Just being connected puts a small drain on your Wi-Fi, but all the rest can slow your network down to a crawl.

THE CLOUD:

Using the Cloud adds a lot of flexibility to your business. The scalability allows you to tailor your bandwidth needs as your company’s needs grow or shrink, but the amount of bandwidth usage varies as more and more files and programs are shared through the Cloud. With subscription-based software programs becoming the norm, there’s data floating in and out of your employee’s workstations all day. If you use heavy-hitting data drainers like HD video files that are shared between two or more employees, your Cloud gets weighed down fairly quickly. If not monitored properly, excess data usage through the Cloud can clog your system like hair in a bathtub drain. 

VIDEO CONFERENCING:

Whether you’re working from home, meeting with clients, or even interviewing potential new employees, video conferencing is definitely a tool that makes good business sense. Many business trips have been replaced by video conferencing, and that’s good for your budget. But now you’re sending that information through your internet connection which needs to be factored into your bandwidth needs. The good news is that video conferencing costs a lot less than travel, so spending a little more on bandwidth is probably the most cost-effective way to meet with people one-on-one.

STREAMING MUSIC:

Many people enjoy listening to music while at work, and if the company allows it, then it’s no big deal. Right? Well, mostly right. Problems may arise when the streaming music is left running 24 hours a day or multiple people are competing, blasting their own tunes. The more people stream music, the more it will cause a drain on your bandwidth. Even though music streams at a low data rate, some services allow users to store their music files on the Cloud, and that causes a bump in the data flow. Accessing personal music files and streaming internet radio may not take up too much bandwidth, but the number of employees who are constantly listening to music adds up. If most of your employees listen to streaming music, then data usage should be monitored.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Humans are social creatures and they search out ways to stay connected to people they are close to. Social media gives us many ways to stay in touch with others, but in the office, that comes at a price. When business owners calculate the bandwidth requirements for start-ups, they often don’t factor in their employee’s social media habits. Sure, most functions utilized through social media don’t use much data at all, but increasingly, video attachments are sent along with text messages. Even in a compressed state, video files are among the greediest bandwidth thieves 

As you can see, there are many ways your bandwidth is being used throughout the day and it can impact your business in a variety of ways. For example, just a few years ago, it was taboo for employees to spend time watching videos on YouTube or looking at pictures of their nephew’s graduation on Facebook during work hours. Today, it is generally accepted that employees will spend some time doing these things.

As a business owner, you can place limits or controls on these habits, but these actions may cost you in other ways. Employee morale is linked to online habits, and if employees can’t stay in touch with their friends on your time, they’ll probably take more breaks than they used to so they can wish Aunt Edna a happy birthday.

It’s a challenge to find a balance between the bandwidth your business needs and the bandwidth your employees need. As the one who writes the checks, it may not seem fair that you’re funding someone else’s online habits, but in today’s business arena, it’s the price of doing business. In the next blogs, we’ll show you how to rein in these data hogs all while maintaining positive company culture and avoiding

Cloud Etiquette 101

Horrible house guests — we’ve all had them. Whether it’s that annoying family member that overstays their welcome or that old college buddy that leaves beer cans and potato chip crumbs all over your couch, if you thought that was bad etiquette, you’ve yet to see the worst. 

 

Imagine coming into the office and finding that your current work has gone missing, your valuable data has been completely disorganized and all your important files have been put in the trash. What would you do? I’m not referring to your paper trail, I am talking about what most businesses today share – the cloud.  

 

Cloud computing, particularly file-sharing, has its own essential and unwritten code of ethics. No one appreciates an ill-mannered cloud partner. For those reasons, we have put together a few etiquette tips to help you not overstay your welcome when utilizing the cloud.  

   

Rule #1: Make Your Names Clear and Concise. Be as specific as possible when naming a file or a folder so that everyone sharing it has a good idea of the contents without having to dig into the file itself. When you’re creating sharable folders, name them for the project rather than the people involved, so your colleagues don’t end up with a bunch of folders in their repository all carrying their name. Consider creating a specific file-naming convention that your business uses and make sure every employee understands it to avoid any confusion. 

 

Rule #2:Ask Before You Delete! When deleting from the cloud, the files aren’t just deleted from your computer - they’re deleted from everyone’s computer sharing that file. Make sure to never delete files or folders without asking. Better yet, don’t delete anything that you didn’t create yourself. You may think that you’re clearing up some extra clutter, while in reality you’ve just killed the report your officemate has spent hours creating. If you do happen to delete something you shouldn’t, you typically have about 30 days (depending on software) to recover the file. After that, you’re on your own to deal with the missing data and any angry glances your coworkers shoot your way.   

 

Rule #3: Size Matters. Be aware of the size of your files. Don’t add a massive 3 GB mega-file that’s going to take up all of that folder’s storage space. Bear in mind that just because you have unlimited storage does not mean everyone you’re working with does. Also, be sure to keep your data organized to avoid annoying others with unnecessary clutter. Do you have a habit of creating and sharing a bunch of notes that lead to a final project? Go ahead and delete those notes after the project’s completion, but only if you created them. See Rule #2. 

 

Rule #4: Create Clear Permission Protocols. Not everyone in your office should have access to every file. Make sure you have clear rules when it involves sharing. File-sharing willy-nilly is akin to a house guest just handing out all of your clothes to your neighbors with no documentation about who they went to and if they’ll ever be returned. When in doubt, don’t share unless you’re the owner of a folder or file.  

 

Rule #5: Maintain Accountability. Cloud computing works best when there is accountability. Sometimes there will be many individuals working out of the same project. It is important to keep track of who is working on which file and when, so you don’t end up with a bunch of overlapping edits or changes that you have to sort out later. Clarify out who is responsible for final updates and ultimately responsible for the files themselves. 

 

Working together is the only way we can make #thecloud a better place. Don’t be the person no one wants to share their cloud with. Simply follow these simple etiquette tips. 

Transitioning to the Cloud

Are you considering moving your company to the cloud? There are a lot of perks. First, it allows your company to scale up and down based on system needs more easily. When you host software onsite, you have to invest wholly in the server required, whether or not you’re utilizing that server fully. If the software is in the cloud, on the other hand, you only pay for what you use. Second, you have access anywhere you choose to be at any time, which opens up tremendous opportunities for remote work and greater efficiency.  

 

Finally, consider security. Data loss is not a matter of if — it’s a matter of when. And, unfortunately, it happens to companies of every size. More than half of businesses locate their disaster/backup systems in the same physical location as their primary system – red alert! If you only have one copy of your system’s backup at your office and your hardware fails or a breach occurs, then a backup is completely useless. In a bit of irony, it turns out that the safest place to be during a storm (whether literal or figurative) is “in the cloud.”  

   

So, let’s say you’ve finally agreed that it’s time to move to the cloud – where do you start? 

 

Here are some recommendations that can help you though the process: 

 

  • First off, moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process. Companies that weren’t “born in the cloud,” meaning any company more than a few years old, need a plan for transitioning to the cloud. Establish the plan, let your data trickle into the cloud and take your time. No need to jump in headfirst. It is perfectly fine to keep your business operating in a hybrid cloud environment (some items on site, some in the cloud) for as long as you need, perhaps indefinitely.  

 

  • Make sure you know your data. Truly understand what is going on before you begin to move your data and applications. Say you’re going to sell your house — you first need to clean and organize your belongings before putting them all away in storage. The same exact concept holds true when it comes to transitioning to the cloud: clean and organize before you store. You may find that while a software works in the cloud, it may experience extensive lag and downtime. Knowing this before you make a move will significantly reduce frustration.  

 

  • Know your options: Public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud? Refer to our previous blog (To Cloud, or Not to Cloud) to learn the difference between these types of clouds. How much storage, bandwidth and support do you want to pay for? Make sure you tailor your cloud service to best fit your company’s needs. What works for someone else might not work for you.  

 

  • Do your research. Here’s the reality: we have heard and experienced the effects of far too many subpar cloud solution horror stories. Companies that were put up on a half-built cloud solution eventually had to return to their on-premise solutions. With unreliable cloud partners, comes hidden costs such as unexpected fees for the overuse. Choose a reliable provider. 

 

  • Define key roles. Who will have access? Who can add, delete or modify data? What responsibilities belong to who and how will this change with the cloud? It is crucial to know your staff’s access limitations. 

 

  • Add encryption. Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your encryption keys. Who controls and has access to these encryption keys? What data is being encrypted and when? Ultimately, you decide how safe your solution is. 

 

While the road ahead may be tough, with these tips in mind, you can begin moving your business processes to the cloud safely and efficiently with the support of the right IT services team. 

To Cloud, or Not to Cloud

Everyone is talking about cloud computing these days and for good reason. The cloud is revolutionizing how computing power is generated and consumed. Cloud refers to software and services that run on the internet, instead of locally on your computer. When tech companies say your data is backed up “in the cloud,” it has nothing to do with those white fluffy things in the sky. Your data isn’t actually up in the cosmos or floating around in space. It has a terrestrial home. It’s stored someplace — lots of places, in fact — and a network of servers find what you need when you need it and then deliver it.

Cloud computing, if done properly, can make your business much more efficient. However, a cloud solution is only as good as the quality of the research, the implementation and the follow-through. So, how do you know if moving your business applications and data to the cloud is the right answer for you? There are few things you need to know about the cloud first. 

What exactly is the cloud? This is a tricky question in and of itself. Just like the clouds in the sky, there are many clouds when it comes to technology. In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and applications over the internet instead of your computer's hard drive. It is using a network of computers to store and process information rather than a single hard drive.

Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid? Not all clouds are the same. You have options with public clouds, private clouds and even hybrid clouds. Choosing the right options for your business comes down to the needs and the amount of control you would like to have.

  • Public clouds: owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider which deliver their computing resources such as servers and storage directly through the internet. With a public cloud, the hardware and software are owned and managed by the cloud provider. You access these services and manage your account using a web browser. 
  • Private clouds: unlike the public cloud, the private cloud is used by only one organization. A private cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network. Some companies also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.
  • Hybrid clouds: combine public and private clouds, which allows data and applications to be shared between them. Data and applications can move between public and private clouds as needed, offering better flexibility and more deployment options.

HaaS or Saas? Just like there are different types of clouds, when it comes to cloud computing, there are also different types of cloud services. Most commonly used cloud services fall into two categories: HaaS and SaaS. 

  • Hardware as a Service (HaaS) basically refers to leased computing power and equipment from a central provider. The HaaS model is very much like other hardware service-based models. Clients rent or lease rather than purchase a provider's hardware. 
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) utilizes the Internet to provide applications to its users, which are managed by a third-party. Unlike HaaS, this is a web-based model where software providers host and maintain the servers and databases eliminating hardware investment costs. 

Is it safe and reliable? As mentioned before, cloud computing is the way of the future. We know it is easy and inexpensive – but is it safe and reliable? What good is saving money and switching to a cloud solution if it will bring additional risks to my business? Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your own encryption keys. So, in reality, you ultimately decide how safe your solution is. As far as reliability goes, in many cases, cloud computing can reduce the amount of downtime to seconds. Since there are multiple copies of your data stored all throughout the cloud, there is no single point of failure. Most data can usually be recovered with a simple click of the mouse. 

In the end, though, companies shouldn’t make decisions entirely based on what they are comfortable with or what is cheapest. What should be most important is deciding whether or not transitioning into the cloud will work for your business.

To cloud or not to cloud? The choice is all yours. Do your research and ask the right questions.