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In this #TechinThree episode, Emma Radcliffe discusses the issue of internet downtime.

From utilising the internet for basic tasks such as emailing and web browsing, to more sophisticated uses like VoIP and cloud storage – reliable connectivity has never been more important to a modern business.

However, whilst many talk about the internet ‘running slow’ or ‘going down’, few of actually know what is happening in those situations.

In this #TechinThree episode, Emma Radcliffe discusses what the most common internet problems are and why they happen.

Watch our video here.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

What is IT downtime - whiteboard

Video transcript

Hello and welcome to another edition of #TechInThree

I’m going to talk to you today about IT downtime, giving you a basic introduction to what it is and explain what can cause it.

So what is downtime?

Well, there are actually three types of internet problems which can affect businesses.

The first is a complete loss of internet connection – which is called downtime, or you’ll sometimes hear it referred to as an outage. An example of this is when you try visiting a webpage only to find that you are greeted with an error message along the lines of “Windows explorer has stopped working”.

The second and most common problem businesses tend to experience is the slowing down of your internet connection – which is called latency. This is when web pages take longer than normal to load, emails are slow to come through, and you may even see a messages like “connection timed out”. The higher the latency, the worse the delays will be.

The other common problem is where information is received out of order – this is what we call jitter. Jitter basically means that information arrives out of order. It’s very obvious when streaming a video, or when you’re in the middle of a video conference and the image freezes. If you’re on a webpage, it will be noticeable when there is missing text or information.

So what causes these different problems? Well, the factors can be roughly split in to two categories. Internal factors are what your business can control. And external factors are the opposite and things that you cannot control.

Let’s look at the internal factors first.

The first factor is having inadequate bandwidth from your broadband or Ethernet connection. What is bandwidth?

Well, plumbing is a great analogy for bandwidth. Imagine your internet connection as a pipe. The volume of water that can flow through a pipe is dependent on the size of the pipe. The bigger the pipe, the more water can flow through it.

In the same way, the amount of internet data you can use at any one time is dependent on how much bandwidth you have. Having more bandwidth (like a bigger pipe) allows information and data to flow faster so you can view internet pages or download a video quicker, than a business with low bandwidth.

The next factor to look at is your download and upload speeds. The rate at which data can be received is called your download speed, and unsurprisingly your upload speed refers to the amount of time it takes to upload files to the internet. The faster the speed, the faster information will flow which means you’re less likely to experience delays when downloading or uploading information.

Finally, the last internal factor is the state of your equipment. It’s easy to overlook the age and quality of a router and its potential to cause problems. Similarly, WiFi routers will often cause hit and miss connectivity. Overzealous firewalls have been known to cause problems when trying to connect to the internet.

Now it’s time to look at the external factors.

The first is the contention ratio. Every house or business will have its own cable that transfers information to a main exchange, but from there everyone shares the infrastructure. The contention ratio refers to how many people are sharing the same facility. Essentially, the more people that share the same facility, the more under strain it is and the slower the speed will become.

The next factor is geography (yes, geography). In an ideal world, everyone would have exactly the same quality of communications infrastructure. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and those living in remote or rural areas may not have the same quality of infrastructure as those living in a city, or may have a higher contention ratio. This is simply because the cost to upgrade infrastructure is expensive and in less built-up areas it’s even more expensive. The further away you are from the exchange, the slower your internet speed is likely to be.

Lastly, we come to third party issues such as roadworks. Unfortunately, if someone accidentally cuts through your internet cable there is little you can do apart from wait for it to be fixed.

So that’s it. I hope that has helped give you a little bit more clarity on what problems can affect business connectivity, and why they happen.

If you’d like to know more about connectivity, check out some of our other #TechinThree videos on the Daisy website.

Join us again next time for another episode of #TechinThree.

For more information on this topic check out our Beginner’s guide to connectivity and our Beginner’s guide to downtime

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