7 Reasons Why Your Business Network Keeps Slowing Down

Your company depends on its network for everything from email and other internet services to your most business-critical applications. When that network begins to slow down, it can have a significant impact on your ability to carry out vital business functions, and ultimately, on your bottom line.

If it seems that your network is slower than it used to be, that’s a situation that merits immediate attention to identify the problem and correct it.

The risks of a slow network

The most noticeable effect of your network slowing down will probably be that the applications and processes you use to run your business are becoming less responsive, or even crashing. Internet access may be affected. As their productivity declines, employees and customers who have to wait for the system to respond to their inputs start getting frustrated and even angry. Employee morale goes down, and some customers may walk away and migrate to your competitors.

One impact of a slowing network that’s often overlooked is the effect it can have on cybersecurity. Network security is normally based on the use of monitoring tools that sample data from across the network to detect and respond to anomalous conditions. A slow network can undermine security by inhibiting the ability of network monitors to get and analyze the data they need in a timely fashion.

Causes of a slow network

If your business’s network seems to be slowing down, the first question to be answered is why. Let’s take a quick look at some of the common causes of network performance degradation.

1. Hardware Failure

As the hardware components of your network age, their performance eventually begins to deteriorate. Perhaps it’s a switch or router, or perhaps a network interface card (NIC) that seems to be having intermittent failures. Sometimes this can be fixed by simply power cycling the equipment. If the failures continue, the component must be replaced.

Network cables that have begun to fail are another common cause of network slowing. A good way to check for this is to swap out one cable at a time until the problem is fixed or it’s clear that bad cabling is not the cause.

2. Network Configuration Problems

If some servers, workstations, or other devices on your network are incorrectly configured, they could slow down the network significantly. For example, your network is probably set up to automatically assign a unique, dynamic IP (Internet Protocol) address to each attached device. But if a user specifies a static or fixed IP address for their computer, an overlap can occur with an address the network assigned to another device, causing an IP address conflict that can seriously degrade network performance.

One potential issue that might not be obvious is the common practice of connecting several routers or switches in a daisy chain configuration. This often happens as a means of increasing capacity as the network grows. However, daisy chaining has the effect of increasing the number of hops data packets must traverse to reach their destinations, which reduces the overall speed of the network.

3. Slow Hard Drives

It’s not uncommon for businesses that have operated their networks for several years to still be using the hard drives that were originally delivered with their servers. While these drives may still be functioning perfectly, they are no longer state-of-the-art in terms of speed, leaving them unable to keep up with ever-increasing data demands. Substituting a modern storage device, such as a Solid State Drive (SSD), might go a long way toward improving network performance.

4. Too Many Network Users

As more users and workstations are added, your network can eventually be overwhelmed. For example, it’s often the case that several workstations are connected to the same real-time application and are all attempting to receive data from the server at the same time. As a case in point, it’s not unusual for all the workers logged into the network to keep their email applications running continuously, so that emails are constantly being served to every workstation. As such uses mount, the network can simply run out of steam.

5. Bandwidth Limitations

The bandwidth of a network functions like the bottleneck in an hourglass. It sets an upper limit on the amount of information that can be transmitted across the network in a given time period. When a network runs out of bandwidth, slower operation is the inevitable result.

Applications that access large amounts of data, such as medical records, business intelligence analytics, and always-on internet services such as email, OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive, can consume significant amounts of your network bandwidth even while running in the background. As your usage of such applications increases, the speed of your network will eventually decline.

6. Streaming Audio and Video

Today’s business networks are more and more being required to support the streaming of significant amounts of audio and video. This streaming sometimes directly supports core business applications such as machine learning, internet of things (IoT), or security camera video. It might also be due to employees streaming music from the internet to help them concentrate as they work. However it’s used, audio and video streaming can consume large amounts of your network’s bandwidth.

7. Malware Infections

If your system has been infected with malicious software (viruses, trojans, spyware, etc.) one of the indications may be a network slowdown. For example, the malware may be using your network resources to send large amounts of data it’s stealing from your system to the internet. Or it may hijack the devices attached to your network to send out thousands of spam emails per hour. Such processes typically operate invisibly in the background, and may be consuming significant amounts of network resources without giving any obvious indication of their presence.

What to do if your network is slowing down

When a network begins to slow down, the first step toward correcting the problem is to get a clear picture of exactly what’s going on. This typically involves actively monitoring the operation of the network to detect issues such as the seven we talked about above. Network monitoring software tools are readily available, but using them properly to develop effective corrective measures requires a degree of networking expertise. The fact is, analyzing and correcting network performance issues is a complex undertaking that requires skills and tools that smaller businesses typically don’t have in house.

That’s why it’s often wise to work with a partner that has the skills and tools needed to tune your network for maximum performance. If you’d like to know more about how to keep your network operating at peak efficiency, please contact us.