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Slow Internet and business failure - the myth exploded!

There is a perception that high speed Internet availability has critical impact on business viability - this perception is false. 



In a recent article on LinkedIn a well respected business contributor wrote about how low bandwidth Internet connection was forcing business closure. In support of his story he related instances of slow software performance causing severe delays in workflow and major issues arising. 

All this is, of course, nonsense. But, the more surprising thing was the number of responses the article gained citing similar experiences. 

Are we really existing in a time when business management is oblivious to the range of tools available to enable and support remote working? 

Remote working will be a major contributor to future business cost reduction, an essential component of business efficiency and therefore competitiveness. Yet, here we have business users citing examples of 6 minute delays when updating a CRM system from remote locations. 

It’s boring I know, but let's look at few facts. Most businesses up until very recent years purchased dedicated business broadband from an ISP and the most common flavours were 2MBit and 10MBit. Common telecom supplier household broadband comes in all sorts of flavours, but it usually delivers around 3 to 5MBit in areas of fairly dense population. Then high speed broadband was introduced, this uses fibre from the exchange to the kerbside distribution box instead of copper pair wiring, and all of a sudden we can have up to 10 or 15MBit. The only thing to remember here is that domestic broadband is contended which means that several household connections share the bandwidth. 

Now we are faced with claims that businesses can’t operate without the higher band width. We have to ask the question – ‘what did everyone do before fibre was rolled out?’  

The answer is, of course, that we all managed just fine. 

The Internet is built around low bandwidth and it works fine on low bandwidth. That’s why HTML, the browser language, is very thin.  

So what is high bandwidth good for? 

Well it’s great for streaming or downloading large files, like movies. The downloads run much faster and streaming is less likely to ‘buffer’. But, when did you last have a business application that relied on fast streaming? The answer is, probably never. 

What irritates most business users is on the perception that high speed broadband will enable users to work from remote locations in the same way that they would in the office. 

This perception is false. 

Most businesses use software applications in order to process their business workflows. Many of these software suites work well in an office network environment. However, an office local area network (LAN) runs at anything between 100MBit and 1Gigabit per second, that’s a minimum speed of 80 to 100 times faster than even high speed broadband. In addition, the service is maintained to almost every PC in the office network by a series of switches, ensuring that each receives the full traffic transport speed. To cut a long story short, no current broadband can possibly match the performance of a local area network and the latency (the delay between send and receive) on broadband will render many office software applications unworkable across a broadband link (hence the 6 minute delay in CRM system response).  

To summarise on that. Moving from plain vanilla broadband to high speed broadband will reduce the latency from six minutes on CRM system update to four minutes. 

Sad news? 

Not really. Remote working is desirable, improving business efficiency is a necessary part of retaining profitability and market position. Broadband latency is an issue to be overcome, whether that be vanilla broadband or high speed broadband. But, the answers are already there and have been for some years. 

The solution is quite simply not to transfer the full dataset between server and client. To do this you simply use thin client software. An Internet browser is a form of thin client, but in order to convert most business applications for browser operation requires considerable redevelopment. This is not likely to happen in any timely or cost effective way. 

Other forms of thin client, though, require no redevelopment. Citrix, VMWare, RDP all allow for the operation of a client machine within the local area network, while the keystrokes and display are relayed to and from the remote machine.  

This scenario is easily handled by broadband. 

Another approach is for key employees to use low cost machines (could even be Android tablets), equipped with remote connection software like Logmein or GoToAssist to run office based, LAN connected, PCs that run mission critical applications. 

A third, longer term, option is to plan to replace all heavy client software in use with browser versions or replacements. Removing mission critical software applications from the office LAN and placing them on cloud based virtual servers is also worth investigation. 

There are many options available. 

While we must keep the pressure on for increased broadband speedPsychology Articles, we must realise that broadband speed is not the issue with regard to remote access performance. Nor should broadband speed have any influence on business success or failure. 




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Chris A Watkins has many years of experience in IT. Further business IT related insights can be found on his website which may be located via his LinkedIn profile.

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