Why internet performance is like your morning commute
If you knew that there was a traffic accident along your usual route to work, you would most likely take an alternative route to the office — provided you found out before you left your home. Or if you knew that the AFL grand final was on, you would stay clear of the MCG to avoid being stuck in a traffic jam.
Internet performance is a lot like road traffic conditions. The internet is a global network of highways, roads, routes, traffic conditions and hazards that can get in the way as your information travels from one location to another. All internet traffic must traverse a wide variety of infrastructures, global cables, switches and routers before subscribers can connect to your website.
In other words, internet performance is simply meeting customer demands and expectations through secure, reliable, efficient, fast and scalable assets delivered via the web. Traffic spikes to digital properties have a notorious history for filling up bandwidth, slowing and potentially crashing websites or access to data. This issue resides outside of your company’s own network, but it is still your problem to deal with.
Internet performance might not immediately come to mind when you think about sporting events, wars and political turmoil, but these events, whether near or far, really do have an impact on it. Here are some examples of global events that can affect internet performance.
War zones. War zones may seem worlds away but they can destroy critical infrastructure that supports the internet. Just like roads being blocked, they can affect the connectivity to your customers. You may not have customers in that war zone but it could affect the route that your customers take to access your global data centres. Any impact on that route costs your customers time in getting to you.
Cable cutting. International cable cutting occurs around the world. In December 2014, the internet cable connecting Perth to Singapore was cut, causing severe drops in web speeds for customers on iiNet, Australia’s second-largest broadband provider. The cut means the link between Perth and Singapore is currently not passing traffic and is taking an alternative path via Sydney to Hong Kong. Repair of cut cables takes weeks or even months, and amounts to millions of dollars.
Cultural events. Global events such as the Olympics and World Cup have a huge impact on internet performance. It’s like driving through Melbourne’s city centre when the AFL grand final is on. During the World Cup in Brazil, record numbers of fans daily checked scores and streamed live matches to their devices around the world, causing huge spikes in latency. If you weren’t prepared for that event, your customer experience would be a lousy one.
Ensuring good internet performance
It is important to understand what is happening across the internet and have a comprehensive picture of how global and local events can affect your internet assets.
An internet performance approach provides actionable insight into internet conditions and gives you the tools you need to respond effectively to internet dynamics and make your customers’ online path to you fast, secure and reliable. Gaining these insights is like having the real-time traffic information ahead but on the global internet.
Here are key areas that you need to look into improve your internet performance:
Speed, latency and security. Customers have little patience for delays. At a minimum, internet performance tools help companies address this by ensuring data is delivered to your customers through the most efficient routes available. Domain Name System (DNS) monitoring can greatly improve security by understanding the routes data takes to move point-to-point through the internet. Knowing when data is routed through indirect pathways is the first step to detecting a hijack.
Intelligence. Businesses need to objectively assess vendors such as ISPs, cloud service providers and data centres. Some internet intelligence tools can help to ensure your vendors are doing their jobs correctly, by continuously monitoring and auditing internet-based services. These tools can also be used to survey the landscape and decide on the best providers when considering the move to new or emerging markets, or entering a contract with an additional data centre.
Load balancing. Load balancing helps you optimise resources and minimise response time when a single server faces an overload. Rather than having a server fail, causing an outage or prolonged latency, load balancing tools can automatically employ other servers during traffic spikes so that your customers never know there is an issue.
Active failover. When outages occur, active failover tools automatically redirect traffic to predetermined sites or services that can help customers. For example, if a customer-facing page goes down, a bank can redirect traffic to its Twitter or Facebook page, where customer service representatives can actively help with concerns.
Although our economies increasingly depend on the internet for business, it is a system that does not ‘just go’ on its own. Complex and unpredictable, the internet produces issues on a daily basis. Businesses that understand its shortfalls will be the ones that can hedge those issues to create the best possible customer experience, consistently.
With your website on the line, it’s important to gain the intelligence and visibility needed to optimise traffic routing, performance, costs and availability of your internet assets — all of which are important to a great customer experience.
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