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One of the tricky things about the technology that powers your business is that if you’re not careful, it can introduce barely noticeable issues into your workflow that can lead to a lot of lost productivity.
These issues are things that people don’t always realize are a problem until someone points them out. Network latency is one of those.
What is network latency?
Network latency is the delay that often happens in the network when you try to do something. For example, you click a link, nothing happens, then a new window pops up with the webpage you just clicked on. That moment where nothing happened is network latency.
Usually, that delay is too small to notice. Network measured in milliseconds. That’s not a lot of time for a delay, typically, but there’s a point where it gets noticeable. A good example of this is when you’re typing on a cloud-based word processor. When you hit a letter on the keyboard and for a brief instant, nothing happens before the letter appears on the page. The longer that delay, the harder it becomes to work because you’re inputting commands faster than the network can keep up.
Ideally, you want as little latency as possible. It’s always going to exist, but in order to maintain peak productivity, it needs to be unnoticeable.
What causes network latency?
There is a small amount of latency that exists in any online system. It’s nearly impossible to avoid because as you use the internet, you’re looking at data that’s stored around the world. That innate latency isn’t the problem.
What ends up being the problem when it comes to latency is when you have too much of it. Networks get bogged down trying to fetch data and things slow to a crawl.
When this happens, there are a few different issues that could be happening.
Poor internet connection
This is one of the easiest things to fix with latency. If you have an internet connection that can’t handle your basic needs, things are going to be slow. If you’re running a business that uses video calls, live chat, hosts a website, and regularly transfers large files around the world, you need to make sure that your internet connection is up to the task.
Like a lot of IT-related aspects of your business, if it’s not set up properly, you’re probably introducing unintentional errors. A properly configured network is designed to handle whatever your business needs are. If something is slow or lagging, having a technician check the settings goes a long way.
High latency can be a sign that you’ve been breached. Cybercriminals often use programs that remotely send data back to them from your network. On the surface, everything is fine, but the network slows down because of the high volume of data being sent by the breach.
Too much wireless
Wireless internet is great. There’s no denying that, but it also isn’t nearly as fast as a wired connection because there can be a lot of interference in the air that slows down the signal. If you’re running applications that require high bandwidth, or you have high bandwidth needs, hardwiring your internet connections can greatly reduce the amount of latency.
How does network latency affect your business?
Network latency introduces a whole host of issues to your business. They’re not always noticeable, however, until the problem has been solved.
The biggest issue is that it introduces delays in your workflow. If your team has to stop and wait for something to happen, it impacts productivity. A few seconds here or there, once or twice a day isn’t a big deal. But if it’s a few seconds every few minutes it adds up fast.
Not only can latency mean it takes longer to do any given task, but it increases employee frustration and affects how well you can serve customers. On top of that, think about the potential impact on video calls when you’re always waiting for people to catch up. It’s bad enough when it’s an internal meeting, but if this is something that happens during sales calls or customer support calls, you’re potentially creating doubt in your ability to do the job properly.
How can you better manage network latency?
We’ve touched on this a little bit above by looking at the causes of latency., but if you’re looking to reduce latency, any of these ideas are a good place to start. The solution that works best for your organization is going to depend on the kind of business that you run, but this list is a good starting point.
Something as simple as increasing the amount of bandwidth you have in the office can have a noticeable impact on latency. Think about a hose. The amount of water that passes through a garden hose is much different than the amount of water that passes through a fire hose. Both are effective, but if you’re using a garden hose amount of water for a fire hose task, you’re going to struggle to complete tasks in a timely manner.
When you’re always watching, you’ll catch potential issues as soon as they pop up. When security issues go unnoticed, cybercriminals can siphon off your available bandwidth for way longer than you’d like. Security monitoring helps you catch issues quickly to help keep latency in check.
Just like with security monitoring, if you’re watching your network for issues around usage, configuration, and anything else that comes up. Network monitoring alerts you to service issues right away, so you can solve the problem and get back to work.
Content delivery networks (CDN)
If you’re a business that relies on delivering things like video games or streaming videos to your customers, high latency will kill your business. CDNs help by giving your content a clear lane of traffic from your servers to your users. Businesses like YouTube and Netflix are strong examples of organizations that rely on CDNs to reduce latency.
With edge computing, you’re storing the critical information you need as close to where you’re working as possible. Rather than accessing something that’s stored in a data warehouse on the other side of the world, the data you need right there, on the device you’re working on. Edge computing is perfect for IoT devices, for example, that need to be able to process information quickly. If you have a heavily automated manufacturing process, that data needs to be accessible as soon as it’s requested in order to keep up with the flow. If your system slows down too much, you risk having to restart the entire process.
Need help eliminating latency from your business?
Dealing with high latency can mean spending a lot of time fiddling around with smaller details in your tech stack, something a lot of organizations don’t necessarily have the capacity for.
The good news is that managed service providers like us live for tasks like this. If you’d like to learn more about how you can reduce latency, boost productivity, and better serve your customers, contact us today.