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Make No Mistake: Your Network Is a Necessary Utility

Building a network can be painful when decision makers fail to realize that it is, in fact, a utility. On more than one instance I've had to ask the question, "Would you build a building without plumbing?" Surprisingly, some businesses would answer, "Yes" -- from a networking perspective, that is.

For them, having one, two or even three devices doesn't qualify a site for dedicated network connectivity. The business case improves should these same sites have requirements for security cameras, access control, credit card processing, fax or employee timekeeping, but it's only when employees at a site use applications requiring the need to send or receive data that connectivity gets more serious consideration.

Still, extending network resources to locations with few people or devices may not appear advantageous for some companies. What many companies fail to realize is that network access is becoming a requirement for more and more commercial purposes. Building engineers and maintenance staff, for example, might require access to the HVAC system so they can adjust climate controls. Does that mean a pipe should extend to the site?

Network dependence, and particularly the role the cloud plays in it, is a reality proven by traffic statistics such as those provided in the recently released recent Cisco Global Cloud Index (2013 - 2018) (CGI) report. "Global cloud traffic is growing faster than the overall global data center traffic. In 2013, cloud accounted for 54% of total data center traffic, and, by 2018, cloud will account for 76% of total data center traffic."

In the CGI report, Cisco outlines requirements for basic, intermediate and advanced network uses. To assess cloud-readiness, it calculated average and median upload/download speeds and latencies based on global fixed and mobile network speed test analyses, as shown below.

Basic Cloud Apps/Network Requirements

  • Download speed, up to 750 Kbps; upload speed, up to 250 Kbps; latency, greater than 160 ms
  • Sample consumer basic services: stream basic video/music, text communications, Web browsing
  • Sample business basic services: Web conferencing, cloud-based learning management system, VoIP

Intermediate Cloud Apps/Network Requirements

  • Download speed, 751 to 2,500 Kbps; upload speed, 251 to 1,000 Kbps; latency, 159 to 100 ms
  • Sample consumer intermediate services: smart home, personal content locker (multimedia), HD video/music streaming
  • Sample business intermediate services: ERP/CRM, IP audio conferencing, videoconferencing

Advanced Cloud Apps/Network Requirements

  • Download sSpeed, greater than 2,500 Kbps; upload speed, higher than 1,000 Kbps; latency, less than 100 ms
  • Sample consumer advanced services: connected education, connected medicine, HD video chat
  • Sample business advanced services: virtual office, HD audio conferencing, HD videoconferencing

The growth of cloud apps and uses will further exacerbate resource issues, leaving network managers to wrestle continuously with delivering always-on availability and enough bandwidth. As data shifts to the cloud, network access becomes more and more imperative to daily operations. The question isn't "do I need network connectivity?" but "what are the business requirements and what type of network connectivity is required to support those?"

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