The need for traffic insight and shaping
Situation – Networks sometime just slow down
Among many roles I am the manager of a small network. We have a fairly normal setup with router, switch, hub and 2 wireless access points. This connects a server, NAS, multiple laptops and 3 large wall mounted smart TV’s/monitors in various rooms. Added to this we also have various mobile devices connecting to the internal wireless network and visitors connecting to the guest wireless. For cost reasons we have an ADSL2 connection (NBN has not arrived yet) and because we are a reasonable distance from the exchange we only get 8-10Mbps bandwidth.
This is usually enough, however there are times (always the most inconvenient – the law of Sod) when everything just slows down and even grinds to a halt. I’m not always in the office when this happens and even if I am it is often a user who starts complaining first.
Complication – The users are causing the problems, but I have no insight
More often than not it is the users themselves who are causing all the problems, but they just don’t know what they don’t know. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to explain it normally just ends with a “well it should just work, I can’t do what I want to do, so go and fix it” discussion with frustration on both sides.
The router on the network has a real time traffic monitoring tool built-in, but it only provides limited information in a “tech level” format and is not the most straight-forward to use. If I want to keep some sort of history to identify patterns e.g. regular torrent downloads then I need to manage log files and then load them into Excel.
This is a free tool so what more could I expect, but it definitely was not stopping me getting hassle.
Solution – Needs to be simple
What I wanted was a way to:
- Gain Insights – Quickly and easily find out what/who was hogging the bandwidth (so I could get the complaining users off my back) and be able to do this remotely
- Effect Ongoing Resolution – Put in place preventative measures (limit the user’s ability to cause the very problems that they were complaining about)
- Consume “as a Service” – Easy to deploy, with logs, updates etc managed for me
Through my work with rhipe (www.rhipe.com) I had encountered a company called Sinefa (www.sinefa.com) and what they were offering seemed like just what I needed. So I reached out to John Millionis the Sales Director and explained the situation.
DISCLOSURE: After the chat with John, Sinefa provided me with one of their SF200 probes on a 90 day trial to allow me to carry out this review.
p.s. Does the fact that this network is my home office or that the users are my wife and children, change any of the situation above? I don’t think so. In fact, given the extent to which we are all now at some point working at home this could be the hidden productivity killer.
I have reused images from an interesting and related 2013 article (http://lifehacker.com/top-10-ways-to-deal-with-a-slow-internet-connection-514138634)