Management is a crucial aspect of running a successful business, whether it is financial, stock or any other controls. When it comes to communications, however, not many companies apply the same management principles to their networks, despite the acknowledged criticality of IP communications in business today. 
Brandon Rochat, territory sales manager for Exinda Networks South Africa estimates that half of all the business networks in South Africa are poorly managed and are therefore costing businesses more than they should.
“Poor network performance results in lower productivity as users have to wait because ‘the system is slow’, poor customer service, potential lost sales and a reduction in the security of the network, and by association the data transmitted over it,” says Rochat.
Poor network performance results from a combination of ignorance and trust. Most network managers are forced to spend most of their time on end user problems and server performance, leaving little time to deal with the network.
Because of this, they tend to trust their network service provider and ISP to make their communications work, not realising there is a vast difference between selling bandwidth and managing it properly.
“The standard response to poorly performing networks is to buy more bandwidth, which improves performance for a limited time before the rogue applications such as YouTube, social media and entertainment downloads that are consuming resources expand to take advantage of the better access,” he adds.
The solution is not to increase bandwidth, but to improve network performance by optimising the flow of relevant, business-specific data. By prioritising specific traffic, the network manager ensures business applications are processed and transmitted before user applications like Facebook or YouTube.
The first step in effective network management is to monitor what traffic flows over the system, both internally and over the wide-area network (WAN). This will provide the business with clear visibility as to what applications and users are using their network for what reasons. Rochat says proper visibility never fails to amaze network managers, as they generally have no idea of who is doing what.
Once companies have accurate visibility, the next step is to control their network traffic by implementing effective management processes based on what is actually consuming their bandwidth. This then facilitates step three, effective optimisation of the network, ensuring data that is important to the functioning of the business is prioritised over everything else.
With these three pillars of network optimisation in place, Rochat says network managers are then able to take the next step and provide their companies with application assurance.
“Application assurance means that no matter how busy the network is, certain critical applications, such as your SAP data for example, are guaranteed to perform to set standards,” he explains. “Any other traffic will be delayed to ensure the selected applications perform as required.
“Once effective network optimisation is installed and customised to the requirements of the company, the management application automatically ensures the right applications have priority over everything else, supporting the ultimate goals of the business.”