As an IT manager, you know all too well how much your users despise a slow internet connection.
As tempting as it is to address this problem by increasing your contract’s bandwidth, you need to stop and analyze what is going on in your network.
Specifically, you want to look at your existing firewall and how it may contribute to data bottlenecks.
At The KR Group, we’ve seen IT managers upgrade their internet circuits without considering their firewalls and continue to experience connection issues.
When you are ready to update your internet circuit, think of the following points before changing your contract with an Internet Service Provider (ISP):
- The specifications for your firewall
- What security settings you’re using
- Your budget for upgrading firewalls and internet circuits
- How to optimize traffic through the firewall
If you’re reading this article after already upgrading your internet circuits, don’t panic.
Go ahead and read the following information. Then go back to your IT environment and see how it applies to your new internet circuits.
Our goal is to help you configure your network better, even if you’ve already increased your bandwidth.
It’s critical to examine your internet bandwidth and firewall throughput compatibility to avoid bottlenecks.
If your firewall can’t handle your bandwidth, it works more like a four-way stop during the morning commute. The intersection (or your firewall) is overwhelmed as it slowly lets traffic through to the appropriate destination.
The most straightforward way to check if your firewall is compatible with your internet bandwidth is to look at the specifications sheet.
Then you’ll compare that number to what bandwidth you’re receiving.
You should keep in mind that shared internet circuits don’t always provide consistent speeds. Your firewall may be compatible with the bandwidth you receive during peak internet times but not when you’re receiving your entire bandwidth.
Additionally, as you’ll read in the next section, security features can consume some of your firewall’s throughput availability.
You’ve upgraded your internet circuit and checked to ensure it’s compatible with your firewall. However, users are still reporting that pages are slow to load, and their connection speeds don’t seem to have improved.
Depending on what security features you have enabled, it could be taking away some of your firewall’s throughput.
For example, as an IT manager highly concerned about your network’s security, you may configure your firewall to run intrusion prevention and detection software (IPS/IDS), anti-malware, content and web search filtering, etc.
However, all of those are consuming bandwidth. The solution is to talk to a security expert about determining what security features you need. Or, you could upgrade your firewall to allow adequate bandwidth for your users and support your security functions.
Budgeting for Internet Circuit and Firewall Upgrades
Understanding the compatibility between your firewall and internet circuits allows you to budget better for upgrades.
Unfortunately, we’ve had to engage in tough conversations with customers and explain that they need to pay for new firewalls to work with their faster internet connection. These IT managers weren’t anticipating this line item in their budget.
It can either eat away at funds reserved for other projects or mean you have to request additional funds.
By looking at your firewall and bandwidth together, you can understand all the costs associated with getting your users the speed they need – and avoid an uncomfortable conversation with the executive board.
Optimizing Traffic Through The Firewall
Another option for handling a potential bottleneck at the firewall is to optimize how traffic travels through your firewall.
Think of this as a two-way stop at a busy intersection.
You can configure the applications most sensitive to internet slowdowns to have higher priority than other applications.
For example, you can set up a firewall to optimize voice traffic over email applications. It’s unlikely your users will notice if their email loads a second slower than it should. However, you’ll hear if there are voice quality problems.
A Layer 7 Analysis Should Guide Your Internet and Firewall Upgrade
We’ve had this conversation with enough IT managers to know that there’s a chance you’re starting to sweat after reading this, especially if you recently upgraded your internet circuits without analyzing your firewall.
Whether you’ve already upgraded your internet circuits or are about to, you are not alone trying to figure out what options are best for your IT environment.
Working with The KR Group, you can receive a layer 7 analysis of your internet traffic to determine your current internet usage and firewall capacity.
With this information, you’ll understand your firewall’s specifications and what security settings you’re using.
Then, you can develop a strategy to upgrade the appropriate network components – regardless if you’re planning to or already have increased your internet bandwidth.
Having this strategy means you will understand the actual cost of upgrading firewalls and internet circuits as well as how to optimize traffic through your firewall.
For more information about getting started with a layer seven firewall analysis, schedule a time to meet with one of our technology experts.