What Is Network Throughput? How to Measure and Improve It
Network throughput refers to the volume of digital data transferred between two points within a specified time period. Typically, it's quantified in bits per second (bps), as in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps).
Throughput is the actual rate at which data is successfully delivered over a network connection, and it provides a realistic measure of network performance. It is influenced by network speed, bandwidth, and latency. High throughput is desirable as a network can carry hefty amounts of data quickly and efficiently.
How is network throughput measured?
Network throughput gauges the amount of data sent from one point to another within a specific period. The usual units are bits or bytes per second, represented as bps, Kbps, Mbps, Gbps, or Tbps. There are numerous tools used to measure network throughput, such as:
- iPerf / iPerf3: Open-source network testing tools that generate traffic and measure the maximum network throughput a system can handle. These tools can be run as a server or as a client and can test both TCP and UDP data streams.
- NDT (Network Diagnostic Tool): An open-source software that can test network conditions such as download speed, upload speed, and average round-trip time, measuring network throughput.
- Speedtest.net: A widely-used internet tool that measures downstream and upstream throughput (download/upload speeds) between your device and the internet.
Throughput testing tools typically send packets over the network to a specific destination, then measure and calculate the rate at which packets are successfully received within a particular timeframe. While these tools help identify throughput issues, organizations should invest in systems that continuously monitor and diagnose throughput issues to avoid costly downtime.
And similar to Nile’s next-generation wired and wireless access network, it is ideal for IT organizations to utilize a system that can monitor its own throughput across multiple dimensions and automatically adjust network state and configuration in order to satisfy service levels that are designed to deliver guaranteed performance.
What is the difference between network throughput and bandwidth?
Bandwidth and network throughput are both measurements of data transfer over a network, but they represent different concepts:
- Bandwidth: This is the maximum possible data that can be transferred over a particular network or internet connection within a specified period. This conceptual figure indicates the connection's potential, commonly gauged in bps, kbps, Mbps, or Gbps.
- Network Throughput: This is the actual rate of data transfer that is being achieved in practice. It's usually less than the bandwidth because of network congestion, hardware limitations, and data protocol overhead. Several elements can influence throughput, such as the transmission medium's quality, the gap between sender and recipient, and network load.
While bandwidth is about potential, throughput is the actual data transfer speed. You can have a high-bandwidth network connection, but the throughput might be lower due to various factors.
What is the difference between network throughput and latency?
Network throughput denotes the data sent across a network within a specific time, usually quantified in bits per second (bps). It encompasses the actual rate at which data is successfully delivered over the communication channel. High throughput indicates efficient data transfer, with more extensive data delivered in less time.
Network latency, on the other hand, is the delay that happens in data communication over a network. This indicates a data packet's duration to travel from its origin to its target, typically quantified in milliseconds (ms). High latency indicates a longer delay time, while low latency means data packets reach their destination quicker.
While both latency and throughput are crucial indicators of network performance, they highlight different aspects. Latency deals with delays; lower latency means faster transmission as data doesn't have to wait long to reach its destination. Throughput concerns the quantity of data transmitted during a set timeframe; higher throughput means more data is delivered successfully.
You would aim for low latency and high throughput in an optimal network. However, increasing throughput may lead to an increase in latency, and reducing latency might lower throughput, depending on the network setup and technology used.
What are the benefits of high throughput in a network?
Supports optimal data transfer
High throughput ensures data transfers quickly. This speed ensures efficiency in operations that require data transfer and can significantly improve the user experience. For instance, quick data transfer in a college campus network can help professors swiftly upload lecture videos and course materials, benefiting students who need immediate access.
With high throughput, tasks that depend on data transfer, such as downloading files or running applications on a network, can be performed faster, resulting in improved productivity. For example, a company that relies on transferring large design files between departments can see tasks completed much faster, leading to quicker project turnovers.
Improves user experience
High throughput can lead to smoother, faster browsing and better overall online experiences. In a busy college campus network, students can effortlessly stream study videos, participate in online discussions, and submit assignments without facing lags or connection drops.
Supports high-bandwidth applications
High throughput is crucial for high bandwidth applications to ensure seamless performance and prevent data bottlenecks or lag during usage. For example, a large organization can ensure that its virtual meetings and in-house video streaming services run seamlessly, facilitating efficient communication and operations.
Monitoring throughput can help identify network inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Once identified, you can take steps to increase throughput, thereby optimizing network utilization. For instance, a large corporation might use throughput monitoring to ensure seamless communication between its global branches.
Accurate network planning
Understanding throughput rates can assist in precise network planning and capacity management, ensuring that networks have sufficient capacity to meet expected data demand. A city planning a smart traffic management system would use this information to ensure smooth data flow during peak traffic hours.
High throughput often indicates a dedicated network connection, with fewer data losses during transmission. An enterprise network, for example, requires such reliability to ensure consistent and uninterrupted services for its corporate clients.
Enables Real-Time Applications
High network throughput is especially critical for real-time applications like video conferencing, VoIP calls, and live broadcasts, where delays can dramatically impact the quality of the service. In a college campus setting, administrative meetings or guest lectures conducted via video conferencing benefit from such throughput to maintain clarity and avoid technical glitches.
High throughput networks can be more cost-effective because they can handle larger volumes of data simultaneously, reducing the need for multiple parallel connections or additional infrastructure. By efficiently utilizing network resources, companies can avoid over-provisioning and the associated costs.
What are the factors affecting network throughput?
When a network’s resources are overutilized, data packets can experience delays, which reduces the overall throughput. For instance, the network may become congested in a corporate setting where employees try to access cloud-based applications simultaneously. Allocating more resources or implementing Quality of Service (QoS) rules during peak usage can help manage this congestion.
The quality of routers, switches, network interface cards, and cabling can all influence throughput. Older equipment can slow down network performance. An enterprise operating with outdated networking equipment might face significant slowdowns, especially during heavy usage periods. Upgrading to modern, high-capacity hardware can bring about marked improvements.
Even if a network has a high bandwidth, throughput might be lower due to congestion, latency, and packet loss. A multinational company's global video conference might face interruptions even if it invests in high bandwidth. Leveraging content delivery networks and optimizing server infrastructure can distribute the load more evenly.
When data packets fail to reach their intended destination, they must be resent, causing delays and lowering throughput. A financial firm might experience issues with real-time stock trading platforms due to packet loss. Switching to a more reliable ISP or optimizing internal network infrastructure can alleviate these issues.
Incorrect network settings or configurations like duplex mismatches can negatively affect throughput. A newly expanded business branch might suffer from reduced network speeds due to configuration errors. Periodic network audits and consultations with IT experts can ensure optimal configurations.
If a data packet's journey from one location to another is prolonged, throughput will decrease. For example, during a global team's collaborative project, shared files may open slowly due to latency issues. Utilizing data centers that are geographically closer to team members can mitigate these delays.
On wireless networks, signal interference from other devices or structures can affect throughput. In a dense office complex, Wi-Fi networks from different businesses might interfere. Placing access points strategically and implementing an enterprise channel plan can minimize interference.
In wireless networks, throughput decreases as a device moves farther from the access point. Employees in distant meeting rooms in a large corporate building might experience a weak Wi-Fi signal. Integrating Wi-Fi extenders or adding access points to ensure sufficent coverage can provide consistent coverage.
Outdated software or malicious software can impede network performance and affect throughput. An enterprise might face network slowdowns due to outdated server software or undetected malware infections. Keeping software up-to-date and investing in robust cybersecurity solutions can safeguard and optimize network performance.
In a Nile network, all these factors are automatically monitored against baseline performance metrics. For each connected device and each network element within the network, these baseline metrics are carefully monitored against guaranteed coverage, capacity and availability metrics promised to the end customer environment on a per building basis. As deviations from these baselines start to take place, a Nile network proactively takes action towards improving any of these factors automatically in software or otherwise via its production engineering team who constantly monitor potential violations in service level targets.
How to Optimize Network Throughput
Implement Network Segmentation
Network segmentation splits your network into smaller parts to decrease congestion and enhance efficiency. For businesses with multiple departments, segregating departmental data can lead to faster data retrieval and enhanced security, especially in areas with sensitive information.
Minimize Network Latency
The lower the latency, the higher the throughput. Minimize latency by optimizing routing, choosing closer servers, etc. For multinational corporations, leveraging content delivery networks (CDNs) with nodes near their global audience can greatly enhance data retrieval speeds and boost overall application performance.
Adjust Quality of Service Settings
Use QoS settings in your router to prioritize essential traffic. For instance, in a corporate environment, video conferencing or critical application traffic can be prioritized over casual browsing to ensure uninterrupted meetings and seamless application performance.
This process involves limiting the bandwidth certain types of traffic can use. In a design firm, where large file transfers are common, traffic shaping can be employed to ensure these transfers don't overwhelm the network, allowing other tasks to proceed smoothly.
Upgrade Network Hardware
If your network devices (routers, switches, access points) are old, they may not support newer technologies that can significantly enhance network throughput. Businesses looking to adopt cloud services or IoT devices might find it beneficial to upgrade their network hardware to accommodate these technologies more efficiently.
Adopt Latest Protocols
Upgrade to the latest network protocols, which provide higher throughput. For instance, a retail chain offering Wi-Fi to its customers might upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 to ensure faster and more stable connections, improving customer satisfaction.
Load balancers can distribute network traffic across multiple servers to optimize the use of resources, minimize latency, and increase overall throughput. In large organizations with multiple locations, utilizing load balancers can evenly distribute intra-organizational traffic, ensuring that mission-critical apps and databases remain responsive during peak usage times.
Understand and control your bandwidth usage, eliminate unnecessary services, and set appropriate limitations. In a large enterprise with interconnected branches, effective bandwidth management ensures seamless communication and data transfer, particularly during times of high inter-branch activity.
Check Cable and Connection Quality
Inspect your network cables’ quality, connectors, and adapters. Poor quality, corrupted, or not fully inserted lines can significantly affect network throughput. Financial institutions, where constant connectivity is crucial, should invest in high-quality cables to minimize connectivity interruptions.
Monitor and Test Regularly
Monitor network performance to provide a benchmark for throughput. Identify patterns that might suggest where and when the network's performance drops. Test to verify if changes have improved throughput. An enterprise with multiple branches might schedule regular network tests post-peak hours to ensure all branches maintain optimal connectivity and performance.
Remember, increasing bandwidth does not necessarily increase network throughput; rather, it increases the volume of data that can be transmitted simultaneously. Increased throughput is usually a result of better network optimization.
Don’t let throughput woes be a bottleneck to your business
As part of the Nile Access Service, many of the optimizations highlighted above are an automated and integral part of Nile’s next-generation wired and wireless access network implementation. The recommended techniques to proactively monitor overall network performance, optimization of network design and hardware elements used, continuous testing with physical and virtual sensors and more are enabled by default in a Nile network.
This ensures that each guaranteed performance metrics for wireless coverage, overall local area network (LAN) capacity and infrastructure component availability are constantly achieved as part of the Nile network installations. This automated approach to traditionally manual and cumbersome lifecycle management tasks relieves IT departments from the burden of managing and troubleshooting network throughput issues across the network.
With Nile Access Service, you can rest assured knowing your network performance outcomes are guaranteed. In addition, the service includes built-in zero-trust security measures and offers usage-based billing for scalable, predictable consumption. At Nile, we build solutions to simplify network operations, allowing you to focus on what you do best.
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