Three steps to successful BYOD bandwidth management

With lots of mobile devices on a network, bandwidth gets eaten up quickly. Access controls and traffic shaping can help with bandwidth management.

In companies that support BYOD, the number of devices often taxes the network and complicates bandwidth management.

But with the right combination of policy and technology, you can improve your users' experience and lessen strain on the network.

Ideally, bring your own device (BYOD) programs should make everyone happy. Users get to bring personal devices with them to the office, and all the organization has to do is implement policies and systems to make BYOD work.

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But some users will bring more than one device to work. Most people have a smartphone plus a tablet or a notebook. Some users, including me, travel with up to five devices, all of them powered on, connected to Wi-Fi and transferring data simultaneously. While I'm enjoying the convenience and productivity of the BYOD lifestyle, the IT person responsible for the WLAN I'm using has to worry about how many more access points, switches and routers he might need, and how much more backhaul capacity.

The potential to reap BYOD benefits remains, but take a couple of measures to improve bandwidth management and make the most of the available network capacity:

Manage policy: Set policies and limits for user access, such as where they can access the network from, at what time of day, their traffic priority and which applications they can run. Then you can use network access control and identity management to enforce those policies. Many WLAN vendors have identity management products available.

Regulate bandwidth and shape traffic: Bandwidth management and traffic shaping are the most important part of overall network performance. You may be familiar with deep packet inspection, which is often a component of traffic shaping, but there are other ways you can gather information about specific traffic streams, starting with source and destination IP addresses. Among the benefits of traffic shaping and managing bandwidth are fair access and prioritized access. They also offer the ability to collect a wealth of statistics that can aid in ongoing management and inevitable future capacity upgrades. Companies to investigate for traffic shaping include Cymphonix, Nomadix, BlueCoat Systems and Heroix, plus wired and wireless network system vendors.

Manage the whole network: The unified management of wired and wireless networks is important. Wireless has become more popular, and the wired network has taken on more of a support role. Separately managing wired and wireless links is an invitation to unnecessary (and potentially conflicting) redundancy of function, staff confusion and extended time-to-resolution when problems do occur. Unified management is taking off now and will shortly become the norm.

Ongoing monitoring of network traffic is always important, as are regular conversations with your equipment vendor(s) as traffic volumes creep up. The vendor community is motivated to provide flexible, effective and cost-efficient products to help with the increased demand for bandwidth, so it's always a good idea to make use of their expertise and new product developments, where appropriate.

The key to BYOD success -- once everything else is in place, such as policies, training, support and more -- is ongoing management, a theme that's hardly new to IT and network professionals.

This was first published in April 2013

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