Everything You Need To Know About Network Throttling
By Mark Bartley
October 4, 2023
In the world of business, a seamless internet connection is the lifeline that keeps operations humming, collaboration flowing, and customers satisfied.
Imagine a bustling Monday morning at a thriving digital marketing agency. The team is geared up for a video conference with a major client overseas. The presentation is flawless, the pitch is sharp, and the team is ready to showcase their months of hard work.
As they start the video call, the screen stutters, the audio cracks, and the video quality decreases. The smooth flow of communication hits a roadblock, and the screen displays the dreaded buffering spinner. They’ve encountered the frustrating reality of network throttling.
This isn't a one-time technical glitch. It's a glaring manifestation of network management practices like network throttling and network prioritisation. It's implemented by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or local network administrators.
While aimed at managing network congestion and ensuring fair bandwidth distribution, it can throw a wrench into the seamless operational workflow businesses strive for.
The scenario is a gateway to the broader reach of network management, a field that impacts the digital processes of businesses.
What is Network Throttling?
Network throttling, often referred to in the UK as 'bandwidth throttling', is a deliberate action taken by internet service providers (ISPs) to regulate and limit the speed or volume of data being transmitted over their networks.
This action is akin to turning down the water flow from a tap. The primary aim behind this network throttling is to prevent network congestion, ensuring that all users get a fair share of bandwidth, especially during peak times.
Throttling occurs when ISPs detect a user consuming a high volume of data, perhaps from streaming videos or downloading large files. To ensure the network doesn't get overwhelmed and other users aren't impacted, the ISP might slow down the internet speed for that particular user.
While it can be frustrating for those experiencing slower speeds, it's a method ISPs use to maintain consistent service quality across their subscriber base.
Network Throttling vs. Network Prioritisation
'Network throttling' and 'network prioritisation' are terms that often come into play in busy networks. Each represents distinct strategies ISPs use to manage data flow.
As we've seen, network throttling is the intentional slowing down or limiting of internet speeds. If a business continually downloads and uploads extra-large files, the ISP might reduce their connection speed to prevent potential lag or buffering for other users on the same network.
This action, often taken during peak usage times or with high-usage subscribers, ensures fair bandwidth distribution and can also be tied to certain subscription models.
Network prioritisation focuses on classifying various types of data traffic according to their significance within an enterprise.
Picture an office scenario where one employee is participating in a critical virtual meeting with a client, another is accessing a hefty database, and a third is streaming a training video.
Through prioritisation, the IT infrastructure ensures the client meeting receives paramount bandwidth allocation, followed by the database access, with the training video being assigned lower precedence.
In times of network congestion, the video may face slight delays, but the client meeting proceeds without a hitch.
While both techniques manage network data, their purposes differ: throttling controls speed to manage congestion or business models, whereas prioritisation elevates crucial data for an enhanced user experience. Recognising the distinction between the two empowers businesses to better understand and navigate their internet usage.
How Do You Detect Network Throttling?
When it feels like the network isn't delivering the speeds expected or necessary for seamless operations, it might be an indication of network throttling. Here's how businesses can identify if they're facing such an issue:
Consistent Slowdowns During Specific Times: If the network consistently lags during particular periods daily or weekly, it might suggest intentional throttling during peak business hours.
Discrepancy in Promised vs. Actual Speeds: Regularly conducting speed tests, especially during periods of suspected throttling, can be revealing. If the speeds are consistently below what's promised in the service agreement, throttling may be a factor.
Analysis of Network Traffic Patterns: Tools and software like network monitors can provide insights into traffic patterns. Sudden drops in speed when a particular amount of data is reached or during specific applications might indicate throttling. Most web browsers are equipped with inherent network monitoring utilities that enable users to scrutinise network interactions and determine potential throttling. Typically located within the browser's developer toolset, these utilities offer features such as network simulation. By assessing apps or websites in a simulated slower network environment, users can identify and tackle challenges associated with loading durations.
Contact the ISP Directly: Engaging with the Internet Service Provider can provide clarity. While they might not always admit to throttling, they can sometimes provide information about network congestion or maintenance, which can indirectly suggest throttling practices.
Investigate Throttling on Specific Services: Sometimes, throttling is not broad but specific to certain applications or services, such as video conferencing tools or cloud-based applications. Monitoring the performance of various applications can identify if only specific tools are being throttled.
Detecting network throttling requires a mix of regular monitoring, comparisons, and direct communication with service providers. Understanding whether throttling is impacting operations is the first step towards seeking solutions or alternatives to ensure your network is performing optimally.
How To Stop Network Throttling
There are multiple ways to prevent network throttling, but not all are created morally equal. While we would never advocate for deliberately misleading your ISP, sometimes you need short-term relief. Here are a few ways you can stop network throttling:
Switch to a More Accommodating ISP: Not all ISPs are created equal. If you find that your current provider frequently throttles or has stringent restrictions, it might be worth exploring alternatives. Seek out ISPs known for better terms, transparency, and minimal throttling practices for business purposes.
Upgrade Your Internet Package: If consistent bandwidth is critical, consider upgrading to a premium subscription or package. Higher-tier plans often come with more generous speed and data limits, reducing the likelihood of hitting thresholds that trigger throttling.
Utilise a Virtual Private Network (VPN): VPNs not only bolster online privacy but also mask internet activities. By routing traffic through private servers, VPNs can effectively cloak your data, making it more challenging for ISPs to selectively throttle based on the type of activity. This shouldn't be used as a long-term fix.
Leverage a Proxy Server: Proxy servers act as intermediaries between a user and the wider internet. By directing web traffic through a proxy, you can potentially bypass certain ISP-imposed restrictions or throttling measures. Again, we don't recommend this as a long term fix and you could be violating your ISP's terms, so please check before implementing.
The Importance of Network Prioritisation
As data flows have grown more complex and diverse, the role of network prioritisation has become increasingly vital. Here's a deeper dive into its significance and workings:
Enhancing User Experience through Traffic Prioritisation: At its core, network prioritisation is about ensuring that the most crucial data is transmitted efficiently and reliably. Whether it's a critical business video conference, a time-sensitive data transfer, or essential cloud-based operations, by prioritising specific traffic types, users can experience fewer interruptions and lag. This leads to smoother, more reliable interactions, which can be especially vital in business environments where downtime or delay can have substantial consequences.
Diverse Techniques for Network Prioritisation: The tools and methodologies employed to achieve effective prioritisation vary, but some of the most prominent include:
QoS (Quality of Service): An overarching strategy that encompasses various techniques to ensure specific data types or services receive preferential treatment.
CoS (Class of Service): Typically used in MPLS networks, CoS labels data packets to assign priority levels.
MAC Layer Ranking: By prioritising at the Media Access Control layer, this technique focuses on the physical addressing of data.
VLAN Tagging: A method that uses virtual LAN configurations to segregate and prioritise data traffic based on categorised virtual networks.
Counteracting the Impact of Throttling with Prioritisation: While throttling broadly limits data flow, network prioritisation acts as a finer tool, selecting which data should be given preference during these slowdown periods. For instance, even if an ISP is throttling traffic during peak hours, a business can employ QoS to ensure that their mission-critical applications still operate smoothly. This means that less critical tasks may slow down, but essential operations continue with minimal disruption.
Speak with your IT or network teams to understand and leverage network prioritisation within your organisation to ensure you get the most out of your online connections, even in the face of challenges like throttling.
How To Speed Up Your Internet Connection
Even outside of network throttling, various factors can affect your internet speed. To ensure optimal performance and a swift online experience, consider the following tips:
Opt for Wired Connections: While wireless connections offer convenience, they can sometimes be less stable than their wired counterparts. Ethernet cables can often provide a more consistent and faster connection, especially for tasks that demand higher bandwidth.
Implement Mesh Networks: A mesh network works by connecting all the devices in the system together with multiple paths, rather than directly routing data through one central point or hub. Each device on the mesh network acts as a router and helps to pass data along until it reaches its destination.
Regularly Clear Cache and Cookies: Over time, the accumulation of cache and cookies can slow down your browsing speed. Regularly clearing them can help maintain brisk browsing and reduce lag.
Limit Device Connections: The more devices connected to your network, the more divided and potentially strained your bandwidth becomes. If speed is a priority, consider limiting the number of devices using the connection simultaneously.
Minimise Active Applications and Tabs: Every open tab or application can consume a portion of your bandwidth, especially if they're refreshing content in the background or accessing the internet. Close any that aren't immediately necessary to free up resources and enhance your connection speed.
By proactively implementing these strategies, you can enjoy an accelerated online experience, ensuring that your internet speed remains robust, irrespective of external throttling or other factors.
Network and WiFi Support
If your business is struggling with network or WiFi issues, why not get in touch with us today and let us provide you with the support you need to get things back on track. We've been involved in WiFi for the last 15 years and our team of experts is ready to discuss your needs today.
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