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What is Network Optimization? A Guide to Network Optimization

Networks are already sophisticated communication systems, and IT teams fight for keeping them up and running. When new applications and technologies are added to these networks to meet expanding business demands, network performance and dependability might suffer significantly. Adding a new device to the network, VPN usage rate increase, implementing new application network-wide, cloud and big data solutions may increase the burden of networks. In such cases, performance issues arise, and IT admins start to seek solutions for performance issues.

In this article, we will present an in-depth review of network optimization. We will discuss why it is essential, and also many metrics that may be employed. But first, let's define network optimization.

Network Optimization

Figure 1. Network Optimization

What is Network Optimization?

Network optimization is the process of increasing network efficiency via the use of advanced instruments and customized network configurations, typically without the inclusion of any new hardware to the network.

With a given set of constraints, the objective of any network optimization is to provide an ideal network architecture with the lowest cost structure and free flow of data.

Network optimization should be able to ensure optimal utilization of system resources and increase production and efficiency for the business.

Why Is Network Optimization Important?

Network optimization allows you to monitor particular performance indicators such as

  • bandwidth utilization
  • availability
  • packet loss
  • latency
  • and jitter.

It provides critical information so that you may fine-tune what is required.

Network optimization is critical for improving end-user experience, increasing productivity, and lowering company expenses.

For example, when there is network latency, an online program or website may take a long time to load. In other situations, packet loss, jitter, or delay might have an impact on technologies like VoIP or databases. Inadequate bandwidth allocation can also have an impact on end-user experience and workforce productivity.

The goal is to keep these parameters under control by monitoring them and maintaining them below specified limits. The goal of network optimization is to enhance (or decrease) the following metrics:

  • Uptime (availability)
  • Bandwidth consumption or utilization.
  • Traffic
  • Delay, Latency, Jitter
  • Packet Loss
  • Duplicate Packets
  • Errors and discards
  • CPU and memory
  • WAN performance

What are the Benefits of Network Optimization?

Now that we've explained why network optimization is so essential, we'll go a little more into the advantages that come with it.

  1. Increased productivity: They will be able to be more productive since they will no longer be bothered by slow systems or frequent outages.
  1. Increased network speed: Optimization makes the entire ecosystem more linked and capable of sending and receiving data packets at a faster rate.
  1. Security hardening: Optimized network security solutions can prevent network threats while also protecting critical and confidential data.
  1. Change effects can be predictable: Managers may measure the effects of any change to the architecture on the network before they are implemented.
  1. Proactive management of network: Optimization monitors performance metrics and provides real-time information to assist network administrators in proactive network management.

What are The Network Optimization Metrics?

Some of the important network optimization metrics are as follows:

  1. Traffic Usage
  2. Latency
  3. Network Jitter
  4. Packet Loss
  5. Latency
  6. Duplicate Packets
  7. Bandwidth Consumption

1. Traffic Usage

Network Utilization in other words traffic usage is the quantity of traffic on the network in comparison to the maximum amount that the network can sustain This is usually expressed as a percentage.

It is critical to understand the variables that might lead to high network usage and how to manage the network so that it does not have a negative impact on the business.

Factors that might have an impact on performance

Infrastructure - A network is made up of interconnected components, some or all of which must be present for any given action. A specific response is determined by the response timings of all of the components involved. Slowdowns will occur anytime a network component is used at more than 70% of its capacity. Slowdowns become severe delays if the component is heavily used over an extended length of time

Internal Use - Under typical circumstances, several business-related operations need a substantial quantity of bandwidth. Data backups, teleconferences, VOIP phones, and even virus scanners can generate high network use, slowing down other operations that rely on network resources to perform.

Non-business Related Activity - In many situations, non-core business activities are discovered to be the source of excessive network use. Casual online browsing, Internet radio streaming, and viruses that have infected network computers can all take valuable network resources and disrupt important company activities.

2. Downtime

Network failures and outages, often known as network downtime, may cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, productivity, and recovery expenses.

Not all downtime is the same. A network's downtime is classified as either planned or unexpected. So, what is the difference between scheduled and unexpected downtime?

The term "planned downtime" refers to a period when the IT staff purposefully shuts down the network to perform scheduled maintenance and upgrades. Unplanned downtime is the most damaging to an organization of the two sorts.

Some of the reasons for unplanned network downtime are discussed in further detail below:

  • Errors caused by humans
  • IT departments that are understaffed
  • Outdated hardware and software
  • Failures in hardware
  • Server faults
  • Incorrect configurations
  • Incompatible changes
  • Outages of power
  • Natural disasters

The costs of downtime are derived from four major sources, which are discussed in detail below:

  • Lost revenue
  • Lost productivity
  • Recovery costs
  • Intangible costs (like reputation)

3. Network Jitter

Jitter is defined as a change in the latency between received packets.

What is Jitter Figure 2. What is Jitter

Jitter can be caused by a variety of causes, but there are a few basic reasons that are at the root of the majority of jitter issues. These are ;

Network congestion - Networks that are overburdened with traffic suffer from poor performance because active devices require too much bandwidth.

Poor Hardware Performance — If you're working on an old network with obsolete equipment, the jitter you're seeing might be due to hardware. An old router, switch, or cable might be the difference between a jittery network and a well-performing network.

Wireless network — Using a wireless network has the disadvantage of resulting in a lower-quality network. Keeping connections wired will assist ensure that voice and video call solutions provide a better user experience.

Network jitter is crucial since it is an essential indication of how well your network is operating. Network jitter is more visible in some applications than others. Any application that requires real-time packet delivery will be dependent on reducing network jitter.

Few services rely as heavily on real-time packet delivery as VoIP phone systems. For the end-user to understand these systems, packets must be sent in sequence. Managing a network to keep jitter to a minimum ensures that VoIP conversations function effectively. In other words, monitoring network jitter ensures that users can communicate with one another.

4. Packet Loss

Packets, also known as network packets, are smaller units of data that are transmitted through a network.

Packets are used in everything from sending emails to downloading data. To ensure network efficiency, packets are dispatched to their destinations following the most logical path. This allows the network to more equally spread its load over several pieces of equipment, improving performance.

What is Packet Loss

Figure 3. What is Packet Loss

Packets do not always make it across the network to their destination.

Internet packet loss, often known as delay, happens when packets become lost in transit. Wi-Fi packet loss is common in private, wireless networks because data is easily lost or missed when transmitted over the air.

Unsuccessful packets reduce network speeds, create bottlenecks, and degrade network throughput and bandwidth.

What is the source of packet loss?

  1. Congestion on the network

Because all networks have space constraints, network congestion is remarkably similar to peak hour traffic. When network traffic reaches its maximum capacity during peak hours, packets are rejected and must wait to be delivered. Fortunately, most software is programmed to automatically collect and resend rejected packets or reduce transfer speed.

  1. Hardware issues with the network

Firewalls, routers, and network switches waste a lot of power and can significantly degrade network signals. During expansions or mergers, companies may neglect the requirement to upgrade hardware, which can contribute to packet loss or connection failures.

  1. Software defects

A defective software operating on the network device is closely connected to faulty hardware. Bugs or faults in your system can occasionally cause network performance to be disrupted and packets to be lost. Hardware reboots and fixes may be necessary to resolve problems.

  1. Overburdened devices

When a network is used at a larger capacity than it was built for, it weakens and becomes unable to process packets, causing them to be dropped. Most devices have buffers that allocate packets to holding patterns until they may be transmitted.

  1. Wireless packet loss

Wireless networks, on average, suffer from higher packet loss than conventional networks. Wireless networks can lose packets due to radio frequency interference, poorer signals, distance, and physical obstacles such as walls.

  1. Security Threats

If you're seeing exceptionally high rates of packet loss, you may have a security breach. Hackers get access to your router and order it to drop packets. Another technique for hackers to induce packet loss is to launch a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, which floods the network with too much data to manage, preventing legitimate users from accessing files, emails, or online accounts.

The only method to properly address packet loss issues is to implement a unified network monitoring and troubleshooting system that allows you to examine your whole system from a unified platform. In a word, a complete network monitoring system equals packet loss prevention.

5. Latency

Latency is the amount of time it takes for data to travel from source to destination.

Latency and round-trip time (RTT) are two terms that refer to the speed of a network. Latency in networks is measured in milliseconds. It is desirable for this time to be as near to zero as feasible; nevertheless, there may be a few factors at work that hinder your network latency times from being low.

What is Latency

Figure 4. What is Latency

Now that the issue of what is latency has been solved, the next question is where latency originates from. Four major factors might influence network latency.

  • Transmission media, such as WAN or fiber optic cables, all have limits and can influence latency owing to their inherent nature.
  • The time it takes for a packet to move from one source to another is referred to as propagation (at the speed of light)
  • Routers spend time analyzing a packet's header information and, in some circumstances, adding extra information. The latency time rises with each hop a packet traverses from router to router.
  • Storage situations can arise when a packet is stored or retrieved, resulting in a delay induced by intermediary devices like switches and bridges.

The importance of measuring and reducing latency cannot be overstated, as maintaining a high-performance and reliable network is a big part of having a successful business. If managed poorly network issues can become a substantial business risk.

How to Measure Latency

Ping, Traceroute, or MTR can be used to measure network latency (essentially a combination of Ping and Traceroute). Each of these tools can calculate particular latency durations, with MTR being the most precise.

By using MTR, you may create a report that lists each hop in a network that was necessary for a packet to go from point A to point B. The report will include statistics such as loss percentage, average delay, and so on.

6. Duplicate packets

Eliminating duplicate packets is a crucial step toward enhancing network performance.

Packet duplication happens when several tap and aggregation points are installed across the data center to gather required traffic, resulting in duplicate copies of packets. Inter-VLAN communication, improper switch policy settings, or unavoidable SPAN/mirror port setups might also result in duplicates.

Unfortunately, these extra copies can easily reach 80 percent of your network's traffic flow. This consumes critical monitoring infrastructure bandwidth as well as tool computer resources. As a result, tools become overburdened, losing efficacy and resulting in incorrect analysis.

The following issues can emerge as a result of duplicated packets:

  • Security tools misinterpretation, leading to false positives
  • Inadequate performance diagnostic as a result of an artificially increased packet and byte counts
  • Reduced data retention durations on forensic recorders as a result of increased storage requirements
  • Flow data in NetFlow/IPFIX reports is inaccurate.

7. Bandwidth Consumption

Bandwidth monitoring is critical in any network and should be a top concern for all network and systems admins to ensure that they always know exactly what is going on in their network.

What is Bandwidth and Throughput Figure 5. What is Bandwidth and Throughput

Bandwidth is the volume of digital data that may be delivered and received from a device in a given length of time.

The volume of bandwidth used is often determined by the network plan offered by the internet service provider.

What Affects Network Performance?

Factors influencing network performance;

  • Bandwidth

The quantity of data that may be effectively delivered and received in a given period is referred to as bandwidth. This is not a measure of how quickly data travels; that is a common mistake; rather, it is a measure of how much data can be transferred on the transmission medium. It is measured in bits per second and is commonly referred to as the bit rate.

  • Number of users or devices

If there is inadequate bandwidth for the data, having too many users or devices on the same network might cause the network to slow down.

  • Mediums of transmission

Refers to wired or wireless connections The bandwidth of a wired connection is greater than that of a wireless connection. The bandwidth of a fiber optic cable is greater than that of a copper connection.

  • Error rate

When data is transmitted, less reliable connections increase the frequency of mistakes. This indicates that data must be resent until it is appropriately received.

The signal quality of wireless connections is affected by the device's distance from the wireless access point as well as other environmental conditions.

The quality of the material utilized determines the signal quality on copper wires, which decreases interference. The length of the cable is also a consideration.

  • Latency

That is the time elapsed between transmitting data and receiving it. Delay is caused by bottlenecks in the network architecture, such as not employing switches to correctly segregate traffic on a network. Hardware like switches and transmission media may also create latency.

How to Improve Network Performance

Tips that may help you to improve your network performance are as follows:

  • To understand what's going on in your network, use suitable monitoring and analytic tools.
  • The most critical traffic may be prioritized using quality of service and packet shaping techniques and features.
  • Out-of-band management can boost overall performance by increasing uptime.
  • Protocol acceleration might help to reduce the consequences of excessive latency.
  • Compression can help alleviate bandwidth restrictions, but it should be used in conjunction with traffic shaping.
  • A user-involved strategy may be more effective than a punitive one in putting an end to unwanted activities.
  • Assure that backup, update, and network management traffic does not interfere with "real" applications due to improper configuration.

How to Increase Your Network Security While Optimizing Network?

Many high-profile data breaches are the result of setup problems and weaknesses caused by business networks' increasing complexity.

Organizations must obtain a thorough overview of their network environment to be agile enough to fix any concerns before their company becomes the victim of an attacker and a pricey breach.

To achieve compliance and comprehensive security, organizations should deploy multiple security solutions across their networks. However, without complete integration or good management, even security infrastructure can expose new threats.

While optimizing your network below shared security tasks should be taken into considerations.

  • Put Your Security Devices in the Right Places
  • Use Network Address Translation and avoid turning off personal firewalls.
  • Make use of centralized logging and real-time log analysis.
  • For all domains, use Web Domain Whitelisting.
  • Direct Internet Access from Workstations should be routed through a Proxy Server.
  • Make use of honeypots and honeynets.
  • Safeguard Your Network Against Insider Threats
  • Network Protocols for Monitoring and Baseline
  • Make use of VPNs.
  • Use a variety of vendors.
  • Make use of your intrusion detection system.
  • When Appropriate, Properly Automate Response to Attacks
  • Physically Secure Your Network Equipment