A well maintained network will keep your network running smoothly and efficiently. Such as with your vehicle, letting your server and networking equipment go without regular maintenance can lead to a system cluttered with issues, which may produce symptoms that can be difficult to diagnose.
Intermittent slowdowns on a network can be expected any time network traffic maxes out your networking equipment; however, frequent slowdowns are not common, and when efficiency suffers, it could be time to diagnose and optimize your network, starting with your server.
Common Sources of Network Slowness
The Network Interface Card (NIC): One vital piece of your server is the Network Interface Card itself, or NIC. This resides within your server, and frequently has LED lights which can indicate problems with the card. This visual inspection is a good starting point for network issues, as a technician can then focus on the connections to and from the NIC, and the settings within Windows to ensure that everything is configured correctly. If the technician finds that all settings are optimized and the wall jacks and server ports are intact, replacing the NIC might be necessary to get your network up and running again.
Routers, Switches, and Other Hardware: When some parts of your network lose partial function periodically, your networking equipment is a likely source of the issue. For example, email and web browsing might be down, while internal network activity is functioning. Or, perhaps your wi-fi has gone down but your cabled PC’s and equipment are doing just fine. In this case, a good first step is to reboot the Switches and the Routers and see if this fixes the problem. When these devices begin to fail, a power-cycling generally fixes the problem temporarily. However, if the problem continues, it might be time to replace the faulty equipment.
Too Many Devices (Daisy Chaining): As your business grows and your network needs expand, it is common that all of the ports on your routers and switches will be used up. Many IT companies will choose to propose a simple fix – installing an additional switch to add just a few ports to accommodate. This comes with pro’s and con’s – while it is a cheap way to add equipment to your network, it creates an additional source of bandwidth bottleneck. Even a small dentist’s office can easily slow down some systems due to the size of dental xrays or other imaging data going through the network, as well as patient health information and other high network-usage activity. The addition of another hop into your network has the ability to slow employee productivity to unacceptable levels.
Not Enough Bandwidth: Through the years, our dental IT technicians have evaluated many networks using switches and routers rated at 10/100 Mbps (Megabit per second). If digital imaging or multiple network access points are in play, this is a recipe for massive bottlenecks and network lag. The standard for all of your network equipment should be rated at 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second).
Virus Infestations or Spyware: This can not be overstated – one PC on your network with an infestation has the ability to bombard your network equipment with large amounts of data. It can be very difficult to diagnose on a network which is not actively managed by a Managed Service Provider (MSP)’s monitoring software and managed anti-virus. The first clue that spyware is involved can be found by looking at the switches and routers – one port on your network might be responsible for up to 99% of all traffic going through your network. The demand of bandwidth from active spyware or malware can be enough to burn out a switch from over-usage. Once the port is located and some testing is done, the port can be traced back to the specific PC causing the issue, and if the malware is deeply imbedded it might need to be taken to your IT provider’s headquarters for proper Network Quarantine and disinfection. Free anti-virus is not enough to protect against this type of threat. A fully monitored and managed network might save not only hours of diagnostics, but also could save your networking equipment itself.
Keep Your Network Maintained
The preferred model of IT support for dental and medical offices is a complete Managed Service Plan. A managed network provides diagnostic tools and maintenance plans to keep many of the above items optimized and maintained. dmi Networking has techs who has been in the industry for over 14 years. If you have any questions about networking, feel free to see our Dental IT solutions.