01 Aug 2013
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Are staff owned smart devices killing company internet speeds?

New Zealand businesses are lamenting the days when wireless networks were faster but, in reality, the problem is not slow internet but people with too many devices in the workplace.

That's the view of Lume managing director Richard Cheeseman, who says complaints about disrupted productivity is not down to slow internet patches, rather the wireless network and user related.

"Take a company of 15 people for example," Cheeseman says. "A few years ago you may have had two wireless devices in the entire workplace.

"Today, with most people having a laptop, smartphone and tablet, that number could easily be 45 devices tapping into the network.

"Then consider that every device is randomly using wireless to update apps and sync emails and files with tools like Dropbox and Google Sync.

"On average, every device will sync five times during the day; perhaps once to upload a file and four times to download files."

Cheeseman says files are far bigger today, such as YouTube video, and when people in the building are using streaming tools like Spotify, their devices will run a peer-to-peer network permanently in the background.

"It's easy to identify the problem, but solving it is another matter entirely," he says.

"In this day and age it would be impossible to tell staff and even visitors (who have permission to join the company's wireless network) to turn off their devices or leave them at home, unless there were some very good security reasons."

Cheeseman believes companies could improve wireless speed by taking a few simple actions.

"Ensure the company is not using a consumer grade wireless router, which averages just 16 channels and is the cause of most traffic jams," he says.

"A commercial grade wireless router comes with 30 plus channels.

"A router is just a small computer handling traffic and, the smaller it is, the less it is able to handle at any one time."

The second action is to consider the age of the network and if it is still capable of handling today's demands.

1. Count the number of wireless devices in your workplace as a base point;

2. Analyse how much data you are consuming. There are free apps that will do this;

3. Check your devices to understand what network demands are being created by them i.e. peer-to-peer network streaming applications; and

4. Have your network configured to prioritise traffic, such as your telephone VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) system.

"There is no magic button that will fix the problem, but much of the time the so-called slow Internet will be due to something changing on your network, like network conflict or new applications," Cheeseman adds.

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