How good is the network link ? This question continues to challenge businesses and the lack of a good answer has resulted in us settling for approximations and a "good enough" attitude. "Well, we don't have too many outages, so I guess its not too bad" is something I often hear from network managers. The majority of user experience issues however can be linked to network link quality.
The quality of a network link is dictated by a number of parameters. Paying for a 10Mbps link does not necessarily mean you always get what you pay for. In fact, what goes on with network capacity beyond the LAN is a leap of faith. Most of the times it works, packets get to their destination within a reasonable time. Problems arise when the network begins to drop packets, available capacity drops and delivery of packets is inconsistent causing serious applications performance issues. To add fuel, these issues are almost always intermittent and extremely difficult to track down. When building a network, over provisioning is a common approach to ensure there is enough capacity to accommodate current and medium term traffic requirements. Over-provisioning is also often seen as a remedy to bad quality links as a hope that extra capacity will make up for the lower quality. Some people believe this will work for them but they soon enough find out about continuous user experience issues that a a link of bad quality brings with it, regardless of bandwidth capacity.
Getting the best network user experience in the most cost effective way is one of the objectives of tomorrow's network. This means leaving the over provisioning and wastage habits behind and begin to design with precision. To design with precision we need precise tools and infrastructure beginning with a predictable and transparent network beyond the LAN. Designing with precision today means better user experience and optimal network costs and it all starts with transparency in the quality of the network link. Turn, what today is seen as a leap of faith, into a resource that's transparent and predictable - in order to manage it you need to monitor it.