Bandwidth has become more available from a cost perspective, but there are still limits. An organization with an adequate amount of bandwidth can see unexpected drains do to unsanctioned (peer-to-peer file sharing) and sanctioned (online video meetings) network usage. In an effort to control access to limited network resources you may want to consider adopting a bandwidth management or network provisioning approach.
Whichever IP version you are using determines how much control you can have over your bandwidth. While IPv6 will provide many more native bandwidth controls, IPv4 requires you to install extra software or network devices to manage IP traffic. IPv5 has 8 bits in the IP header that are supposed to indicate the type of service, but in most instances these bits do not change.
There are other ways to control bandwidth but they sometimes have drawbacks. One way is to set priorities based on origin and address, but this often does not solve the problem as systems handle multiple kinds of data and network bandwidth managers work best when they look inside a packet to figure out what protocol is being used. Gating, another method, works by holding packets based on a priority scheme. This is accomplished at the device level where most of the devices involved act as routers or bridges between internal and external traffic, with best placement inside the firewall and inside the router.
The other option is to purchase a product to help you control network traffic. Among the many products in this area are Allot NetEnforcer, Packeteer Packetshaper, Checkpoint Floodgate-1, Solaris Bandwidth Manager, among others. Good products of this type analyze your network traffic, tell you what is going where and to whom and let you create policies for the management of traffic – a Quality of Service (QoS) approach. It is a good idea to pick a product that is not only able to identify traffic in terms of type, but can apply a policy approach that controls traffic by applications, user and group as well as offering many of the properties of a sniffer to identify which logical connections are the most heavily used. Many of these utilities provide traffic compression to enhance network throughput, in addition to centralized management and control.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.