Throughput and Bandwidth Explained Final Thoughts
What Is Bandwidth in Networking?
The network bandwidth definition can be confusing, but basically, networkbandwidth is defined as the maximum transfer throughput capacity of a network.It’s a measure of how much data can be sent and received at a time. Bandwidthis measured in bits, megabits, or gigabits per second.It’s important to know bandwidth doesn’t actually increase the speed of anetwork, it just appears to make the network faster. You can increase anetwork’s bandwidth all you want, but all you’ll end up doing is increasingthe amount of data that can be sent at one time, not increasing thetransmission speed of said data. Bandwidth doesn’t change the speed at whichpackets are traveling. It’s similarly important to remember high bandwidthdoesn’t necessarily equal high network performance. Substantial bandwidthwon’t matter if data throughput is still being dragged down by latency,jitter, or packet loss.Having said this, bandwidth is still important for network speed. Internetspeed, for instance, is allocated bandwidth or the amount of data capable ofbeing sent to you per second. For instance, 5 Mbps means you can receive up tofive megabits of data per second.Bandwidth is like a freeway with a strictly enforced speed limit. The cars(data) on the freeway all have to travel at the same speed, so the only way toget more cars on the road, or more data from the internet, is to make thefreeway wider. Let’s say 1 Mbps is the equivalent of a single-lane freeway.Let’s also say you want to download a 5 Mb image. If you had a connection witha bandwidth of 1 Mbps (one lane) it would take you about five seconds todownload that image.Now, if you were operating with a 5 Mbps bandwidth connection (five lanes),the same process would take you one second. Here’s the key—your internetconnection isn’t any faster from one megabit to the next. What’s different isyour data is being transmitted to you at a faster rate because more data cantravel down the freeway at the same time. This efficiency makes your internetperceptually faster, not technically faster.Why is network bandwidth important to administrators, then, if it doesn’tactually increase the speed of their network in any quantifiable way? One ofthe most important things monitoring bandwidth does is provide information.Administrators need a way to monitor bandwidth, so they can know whether ornot they have adequate bandwidth to fit the needs of their applications. Oncethey have this information and can identify any bandwidth bottlenecks in thesystem, they can take appropriate steps to rectify the situation—which, inturn, directly increases speed. Monitoring bandwidth availability ensures youwould have enough theoretical bandwidth if you ever found yourself in need ofit. Using a network monitoring tool allows you to see the actual amount ofbandwidth available to your devices and applications within the network.Back to Top
Bandwidth vs. Throughput
The difference between bandwidth and throughput isn’t necessarily simple. Theytell you two different things about the data in your network, but they’reclosely related. You can think of bandwidth as a tube and data throughput assand. If you have a large tube, you can pour more sand through it at a fasterrate. Conversely, if you try to put a lot of sand through a small tube, itwill go very slowly.In short, throughput and bandwidth are two different processes with twodifferent goals both contributing to the speed of a network. Data throughputmeaning is a practical measure of actual packet delivery while bandwidth is atheoretical measure of packet delivery. Throughput is often a more importantindicator of network performance than bandwidth because it will tell you ifyour network is literally slow or just hypothetically slow.Back to TopI’ve identified a few key products capable of performing somewhat differentfunctions around monitoring and managing bandwidth and throughput on yournetworks. Check out this list of top bandwidth tools to better understandwhich ones might be most helpful for your admin efforts.Network Performance Monitor (NPM) from SolarWinds is a tried-and-true, multi-vendor network monitoring system specially designed for scalability. NPMoffers a wide range of tools for monitoring and analyzing network performance,advanced alerting, reporting, and problem diagnosis.NPM’s LUCID (logical, useable, customizable, interactive, drill-down) userinterface works like a dream. When you open it, you get a complete summary ofall network activity, device status, and alerts, so you can see how yoursystem is doing at a glance. It’s fully customizable, too, so you can switchweb resources, maps, and views around. When you turn it on, you only see whatyou want, when you want it.This software is also excellent for troubleshooting. Is it the app or networkthat’s slow? What’s up with this constant flood of alerts? How do I keep upwith a constantly changing network? NPM makes answering these questions easy.The NetPath™, PerfStack™, and intelligent map features are huge helpers here.Technical note—It requires Windows Server 2016 or later.SolarWinds® NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA) boosts your NetFlow monitoringcapabilities by giving you a clear view of your bandwidth availability andwhat devices are taking up too much of it. Once you know what applications areusing up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth in your network, you can fixthe problem fast.The NTA summary screen gives you a complete overview of flow traffic withgraphs showing all applications and the busiest endpoints. Toggle throughapplication activity, bandwidth usage, NetFlow sources, and other tabs topinpoint exactly where the bottleneck is occurring. The interactive graphsshow how much bandwidth is being sucked up by email, web browsing, VoIP, FTP,media streaming, and the like. Simply click on an application and you can naildown its bandwidth usage. Application alerts notify you if there’s any unusualactivity, so you can be proactive when it comes to network issues.SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack (BAP) really provides you witheverything you need to measure the throughput of your network for a betterprice. With this system, you get both Network Performance Monitor and NetFlowTraffic Analyzer in one convenient bundle, so you’ll have all of your basescovered and get the best of both programs. NPM and NTA can both be managedfrom the same Orion® Platform, making them easy to use side by side.Broadly speaking, you can use the tools together to detect, diagnose, andresolve all kinds of network performance issues. This network throughputmonitor solution uses SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) monitoring togive you the most comprehensive view of your entire system. The tools can alsocombine NetFlow, J-Flow, sFlow, NetStream, and IPFIX data built into mostrouters to identify what’s eating up all your bandwidth and slowing down yournetwork.One of the cooler features in the Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack is itsability to function as a network throughput test capable of being mixed withboth pre- and post-QoS policy maps, so you can see if your QoS policy improvesnetwork performance over time. This is critical for any business relying oncloud-based applications, VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), e-commerce, oranything else that needs bandwidth priority.SolarWinds BAP also gives you the opportunity to use its network trafficmonitor to deeply analyze network performance. All SolarWinds software isdesigned to be flexible, so users can pick and choose which components arenecessary to enhance their particular network—but using all these toolstogether is really your best bet.If you’re not ready to take the plunge with the Network Bandwidth AnalyzerPack, I’d suggest starting with the free Flow Tool Bundle, also fromSolarWinds. The Flow Tool Bundle distributes flow data to multipledestinations for analysis, simulates network flow data to test configurationswith NetFlow Generator, and configures NetFlow v5 on Cisco devices. You canalso configure random samplings of flow data packets to reduce the load on themonitored system and collector. The best part, it’s free!Another helpful throughput and bandwidth monitoring tool is the Paessler PRTGNetwork Monitor. It’s got a good blend of visibility, scalability, and ease ofuse. PRTG is a powerhouse of a tool, combining auto-discovery, networkmonitoring, NetFlow analysis, cloud monitoring, VMware monitoring, anddatabase monitoring in one system.Of special note here is the auto discovery feature. With auto discovery, PRTGNetwork Monitor scans your network’s segments by pinging specific IP ranges.This way PRTG will automatically recognize all of your connected devices andsystems in the future and create custom sensors for them. This saves a lot oftime when it comes to configuration, so another plus for this system is itsquick and easy setup.In terms of packet loss, this software has a number of functions to help yourein it in. Packet Sniffer Sensor, Cisco IP SLA Sensor, and QoS One Way Sensorall let you see how well packets are traveling within your network. Forexample, the Packet Sniffer Sensor allows you to view past and present data interms of dials and pie charts. In addition, a comprehensive alert system letsyou know when warnings or unusual metrics have been detected in your network.Back to TopIf you’re a managed service provider, you don’t just need to worry aboutbandwidth monitoring for a single website or network. You’re responsible formonitoring the performance of hundreds of client networks and respondingquickly to resolve problems when they arise. That means you need a differentkind of solution than the options mentioned above.That’s why we’ve waited until now to mention Remote Monitoring & Management(RMM). This all-in-one solution is designed to meet the unique needs ofmanaged service businesses. It provides a full suite of features—includingrobust web protection, monitoring and defense against diverse threats such asmalware, phishing, adware, botnets, and spam—as well as customizable accesscontrols and more.
Throughput and Bandwidth Explained—Final Thoughts
Throughput and bandwidth are two different but closely related concepts. Tosummarize, throughput is an actual measure of how much data is successfullytransferred from source to destination, and bandwidth is a theoretical measureof how much data could be transferred from source to destination. Throughputmeasures speed while bandwidth is only indirectly related to speed. Bandwidthmakes your internet connection perceptually faster, but not technicallyfaster.Monitoring both throughput and bandwidth together will give the most completeaccount of your network performance. Combining the two allows you to check upon network resources to make sure they’re being used as efficiently aspossible, and it also prepares you for dealing with issues like latency andpacket loss from the start. Speaking of combining the two, I suggest tryingout Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack as a comprehensive solution to trackinsights into your bandwidth and throughput performance.
Are you getting the full bandwidth? Find out with PRTG Network Monitor!
Are your service providers giving you the full bandwidth? Is your bandwidthstable? Are there any bandwidth hogs? Find out by using the professionalBandwidth Monitoring Tool PRTG. * Unlimited version of PRTG for 30 days * After 30 days, PRTG reverts to a free version * Or, you can upgrade to a paid license anytime Measuring bandwidth is typically done using software or firmware, and anetwork interface. Common bandwidth measuring utilities include the Test TCPutility (TTCP) and PRTG Network Monitor, for example.TTCP measures throughput on an IP network between two hosts. One host is thereceiver, the other the sender. Each side displays the number of bytestransmitted and the time for each packet to complete the one-way trip.PRTG provides a graphical interface and charts for measuring bandwidth trendsover longer periods of time, and can measure traffic between differentinterfaces. Typically, to measure bandwidth, the total amount of traffic sent and receivedacross a specific period of time is counted. The resulting measurements arethen expressed as a per-second number.Another method of measuring bandwidth is to transfer a file, or several files,of known size and count how long the transfer takes. The result is convertedinto bps by dividing the size of the files by the amount of time the transferrequired. Most internet speed tests use this method to calculate theconnection speed of a user’s computer to the internet.While there is no way to measure total available bandwidth, there are manyways to define measured bandwidth, depending on the need.Theoretical maximum – The highest transmission rate under ideal circumstances.The theoretical maximum transfer rate cannot be achieved in actualinstallations. Typically, the theoretical maximum is only used for comparisonas a way of determining how well a connection is functioning compared to itstheoretical maximum potential.Effective bandwidth – The highest reliable transmission rate. Always lowerthan the theoretical maximum. Sometimes considered the best usable bandwidth.Necessary for understanding the amount of traffic a connection can support.Throughput – The average rate of successful data transfer; useful forunderstanding the typical or usual speed of a connection. Throughput is thesize of the transfer divided by the time it takes for the transfer tocomplete. Measured in bytes per second, throughput can be compared to theeffective bandwidth and the theoretical maximum as a way of determining howwell the connection is performing.Goodput – Measures the amount of useful data that is transferred, excludingundesirable data such as packet retransmissions or protocol overhead. Goodputis calculated by dividing the size of the transferred file by the amount oftime the transfer took.Total transfer method – Counts all traffic across a period of set time,typically a month. This is most useful for billing based on how much bandwidthis used.95th percentile method – To avoid having bandwidth measurements skewed byspikes in usage, carriers often use the 95th percentile method. The idea is tocontinuously measure bandwidth usage over time, and then remove the top 5percent of use. This is useful for billing based on how much bandwidth is‘normally’ used in a set period.In real world networks, bandwidth varies over time depending on use andnetwork connections. As a result, a single bandwidth measurement says verylittle about actual bandwidth usage. A series of measurements can be moreuseful when determining averages or trends.
Bandwidth vs. speed vs. throughput
There are many ways to think about the flow of data in a network. The speed ofa network is defined as the bit rate of the circuit, determined by thephysical signal speed of the medium.Bandwidth is how much of the physical circuit’s capacity can be used totransmit data and is determined by how much of the network capacity isavailable based on the connection. While a Gigabit Ethernet network connectionwould allow for 1 Gbps, the bandwidth available to a computer connected by aFast Ethernet card would only be 100 Mbps.Throughput is the rate of successful transmission, while bandwidth is acalculation of the amount of data that passes the network interface,regardless of whether the data results in a successful transmission. As such,throughput is always lower than bandwidth. There are several reasons to measure bandwidth. Low usable bandwidth comparedto the theoretical maximum bandwidth may be indicative of network problems,particularly if there are widely different usable bandwidths from differentparts of a network that are designed to operate the same.Additionally, measuring bandwidth is necessary to ensure that any paidconnections are living up to their promise. Home users may run an onlinebandwidth test such as the DSLReports speed test to see just how much of that“up to 40 Mb/s” connection their internet service provider (ISP) charges themfor they actually get to use. Corporate connections might be better served bymeasuring throughput between offices connected by a carrier-leased lineconnection.
Some types of connections have a maximum defined bandwidth. Actual bandwidthdepends on many factors including environment, cabling, and usage, and isusually less than the theoretical maximum.Wired bandwidth standards for connectionsDialup Modem | 56 kbps —|— T1 (Digital leased landline connection) | 1.544 Mbps E1 (Digital leased landline connection European) | 2.048 Mbps Asynchronous DSL | 4 Mbps Ethernet | 10 Mbps T3 (Digital leased landline connection) | 44.763 Mbps VDSL | 55 Mbps VDSL 2 | 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet | 100 Mbps OC3 (Ficer optic leased landline connection) | 155 Mbps OC 12 (Ficer optic leased landline connection) | 622 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet | 1000 Mbps or 1 Gbps VSDL 2 Vplus | 300 Mbps 10 Gigabit Ethernet | 10 Gbps 100 Gigabit Ethernet | 100 Gbps Wireless network standard maximum download speedsWireless network connection speeds vary widely based on the conditions of theconnection. The numbers below are the maximum bandwidth speeds according tothe standard or specification.802.11b | 11 Mbps —|— 802.11g | 54 Mbps 802.11n | 600 Mbps 802.11ac | 600 Mbps 3G – HSPA | 7.2 Mbps 3G – HSPA+ | 21 Mbps 3G – DC-HSPA+ | 42 Mbps 4G – LTE | 100 Mbps 5G (proposed) | 1 Gpbs (or higher) Bandwidth is most often purchased from telecommunications companies. Mostconsumer bandwidth is sold as “up to” meaning that the customer may get up to40 MB/s, but not always have that speed while using the connection. Speeds maybe higher or lower at different times of the day or under differentcircumstances. Corporate bandwidth is also typically purchased fromtelecommunications companies. However, many corporate agreements come withcontractual performance measures that must be met, including a minimum usablebandwidth, minimum uptime, and other metrics.Additionally, bandwidth metering may be used to charge for specific usagerather than a full connection. For example, a website owner may pay thewebsite host only for the amount of bandwidth used by that specific websiteover a period of time, such as a monthly billing period.
Too much bandwidth
There a few technical issues caused by too much bandwidth. Higher capacitybandwidth, however, typically costs more. Thus, too much bandwidth may not becost effective.
Are you getting the full bandwidth? Find out with PRTG Network Monitor!
Are your service providers giving you the full bandwidth? Is your bandwidthstable? Are there any bandwidth hogs? Find out by using the professionalBandwidth Monitoring Tool PRTG. * Unlimited version of PRTG for 30 days * After 30 days, PRTG reverts to a free version * Or, you can upgrade to a paid license anytimeData Usage Vs Data Speed – Understanding The DifferenceThe data usage vs data speed confusion seems to be a common issue withconsumer based data contracts.There seems to be a general confusion in understanding what you get vs whatyou pay for, especially in wireless (cellular) offerings. Some of the consumerdata product sales staff, who themselves also may not be able to differentiatebetween data speed (bandwidth) and data availability (capacity), are alsousing the terminology in the wrong context. All of this misunderstanding leads to the most common question being askedregarding data :
Data speed (bandwidth):
This is the understanding of the maximum, and minimum, throughput rate of yourdata contract at the time of use and importantly in your specific location.Put simply, how fast the internet will be where you want to use it?Contracts normally specify the maximum available bandwidth in a variation ofbits per second. These are then measured in either kilobits, megabits,gigabits per second incremented by roughly a 1000 bits per the list. Yourthroughput rate then would be how much data can flow through your link over aspecified period – normally a second. Always understand the fine print aswireless or ADSL type contracts will further differentiate between the“Upload” and the “Download” bandwidth speeds. For most people the downloadspeed is the priority; but as soon as you need 2-way communication or thebigger need to send information to the internet rather than download it, youravailable “Upload” bandwidth suddenly becomes a bottle neck!
Data usage (capacity):
This is the understanding of the available data you have allocated to you forthe period(s) defined in your agreement with the service provider.Where the confusion comes for a lot of people is that these are also workedout in the bit variation although explained a little differently. Here we aregiven a set data limit for a period capped in a Megabytes or Gigabytes number,or if you are lucky an “uncapped” service offering!An example of this will be the data service provider will tell you that forthe period defined (a month normally) you are allocated a maximum of 1Gigabyte of data for example before you will need to either top up, or will becharged for more at a set rate per increment there after– normally very high,or will be cut off.So again, put simply, this is the amount of data included in the agreement youcan use for the set period, before either being cut off or billed extra.Now understanding your throughput data speed and understanding your availabledata allocation we can start to answer the questions:
Latency and Network Speed
Though the perception of network speed and performance is usually understoodas bandwidth, latency is the other key element. The average person is morefamiliar with the concept of bandwidth because that’s the metric thatmanufacturers of network equipment typically advertise, but latency mattersequally to the end-user experience. In slang terms, the word lag often refersto poor performance on a network.
Latency of Internet Services, Software, and Devices
On DSL and, cable internet connections, latencies of less than 100milliseconds (ms) are typical, and less than 25 ms is often possible. Withsatellite internet connections, on the other hand, typical latencies can be500 ms or higher.An internet service rated at 100 Mbps can perform noticeably worse than aservice rated at 20 Mbps if it is running with high latency.Satellite internet service illustrates the difference between latency andbandwidth on computer networks. Satellite possess both high bandwidth and highlatency. When loading a web page, for example, most satellite users observe anoticeable delay from the time they enter the address to the time the pagebegins loading.This high latency is due primarily to propagation delay as the request messagetravels at the speed of light to the distant satellite station and back to thehome network. Once the messages arrive on Earth, however, the page loadsquickly, like on other high-bandwidth internet connections (such as DSL andcable internet).WAN latency is another type of latency that occurs when the network is busydealing with traffic to the point that other requests are then delayed becausethe hardware can’t handle all of it at maximum speeds. This affects the wirednetwork, too, because the whole network is operating together.An error or other problem with the hardware can increase the time it takes forthe hardware to read the data, which is another reason for latency. This maybe the case for the network hardware or the device hardware, like a slow harddrive that takes time to store or retrieve data.The software running on the system can cause latency, too. Some antivirusprograms analyze all the data that flows in and out of the computer, which isone reason some protected computers are slower than their counterparts. Theanalyzed data is often torn apart and scanned before it’s usable.