As organizations come to rely more on network performance for daily business functions, it’s essential to know how well your network is performing. A simple network test or ping test can tell you what your upload and download speed is at a given moment. However, without a baseline or benchmark to compare it to, you won’t know whether it’s faster or slower than usual.
Your network benchmark is the standard against which other network speed tests can be measured. Benchmarking is a crucial part of network performance testing because it tells you what “normal” is or should be. For example, a network benchmark gives you a point of comparison to the test results you get as you’re troubleshooting a network issue.
Network Performance Issues
The most common indicators of network performance issues are:
- Latency: The time needed to transmit a packet, it can be measured one way or round trip, and can be caused by a variety of issues from the workstation, WAN, LAN, router or server.
- Throughput: The quantity of data that can be transmitted/received in a certain amount of time.
- Packet Loss: The number of packets lost compared to the number sent, typically measured by 100 sent packets.
How Do You Find Your Benchmark?
A benchmark should indicate the norm, so benchmark testing should be done under normal conditions. This is most likely when employees are working and using the network as part of their day-to-day activities. You may also want to consider running benchmark testing during peak hours and during off-peak hours to see the impact of high usage on the network. Or, do the testing at the same time throughout the week to get a true average.
There are several ways to measure network performance; they include:
- Network Availability Testing
- Network Speed Testing
- Bandwidth Usage Testing
By performing several kinds of network performance testing, you can find your network performance benchmark.
Network Availability Testing
Network availability testing may be as simple as running a ping test that requests responses from your network devices to ensure that everything is connected and operational.
Availability testing should be part of your network monitoring tools, or if you’re looking for a free option, WireShark and NTOP offer free downloads.
Network Speed Testing
A network speed test will check the network upload and download speeds. This is done by sending and receiving data and measuring the rate of transmission. A speed test may also look for throughput and packet loss.
There are several free network speed tests available online. If you want a tool that looks for packet loss, Paessler offers a free download of their packet loss tool.
Bandwidth Usage Testing
Odds are, you’re paying your ISP for a certain amount of bandwidth. Depending on how you’ve configured your network, you may have specified how much bandwidth can be used at once. Tests to determine bandwidth allocation can show you whether resources are being used effectively, which may impact Quality of Service (QoS).
There are many tools available to help you measure and optimize bandwidth usage. CompariTech put together a great list of bandwidth optimization tools, some of which offer free downloads or trials:
- SolarWinds Tools
- SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset
- Paessler PRTG
- ManageEngine Tools
- ManageEngine OpManager Plus
- Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold
Documenting Your Network Benchmark
Once you’ve completed your network testing and have identified your network benchmark, make sure it’s documented and easy to find. Your network benchmark should be used as a guide to help identify network slowdowns or troubleshoot network issues, but if it’s not documented somewhere, it won’t be beneficial.