Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail
Network utilization is the amount of traffic on the network compared to the peak amount that the network can support. This is generally specified as a percentage.
There are various times throughout the normal course of business when a network is busier, i.e., the network utilization is high. As a result, users experience a slow down when the network utilization is high enough. Response times grow greater than expectations preventing normal business processes from operating efficiently. Performance degradations are generally a nuisance but can become significant enough to result in lost revenues. It is important to understand the factors that can cause high network utilization and how to manage the network preventing it from negatively impacting the business.
Factors that can affect performance
Infrastructure - The layout of the internal network and the devices attached to it impact network performance. A network is made up of interconnected components some or all of which are required for any given operation. A particular response depends on the response times of all of the components involved. As a rule of thumb whenever a component of the network is more than 70% utilized, slowdowns will occur. If the component is highly utilized for long periods of time, the slowdowns turn into serious delays. The connection to the outside Internet can become a bottleneck when more interactions with the Internet occur than the service provides.
Internal Usage - Some business-related processes require a significant amount of bandwidth under normal conditions. Data backups, teleconferences, VOIP phones, and even virus scanners can cause network utilization to become high, as a result, slowing other processes that require network resources to function.
Non-business Related Activity - In many cases, non-core activities occurring within the business are found to be the culprit of high network utilization. Casual web surfing, Internet radio streaming, and viruses that have infected machines on the network can steal precious network resources and cause problems with critical business functions.
Factors that affect network utilization and the performance of the network fall into a few major categories.
Table 2.1. Tools to Monitor Network Utilization
|Service||Dealer w/o IT Department||Dealer w/ IT Department|
|Off the shelf single PC usage||X|
|Off the shelf multiple PC usage||X||X|
The type of software that you purchase will depend greatly on what the needs of the dealership are. Some of the keys items to consider when purchasing or outsourcing network utilization tools are:
Current Problems - This could include lag on the network, network crashing or inconsistent network availability, or a possible virus.
Future Problems - Make sure the product will support future plans, such as additional users, network changes, etc.
Bandwidth monitoring - Can the tool monitor the bandwidth that is available (keep in mind this may not equal exactly what you signed up for. Many factors effect this number)
Collect top sites that users visit.
Collect information on the top users.
Optionally block certain sites or specific terminology.
Provide enough detail to list ip addresses, etc. (this may be IT dept).
Provide pinging (details).
Catch and inspect packets off the line (wireshark).
Network sniffing (who is using what).
In a situation where the network monitoring is outsourced, the dealership needs the option to monitor the reporting, change any network settings, etc. If these features are not available, the dealership should construct and SLA specifying a pre-defined list of report dates, etc.
In an effort to reduce latency due to excessive traffic or other contributing factors it is important that certain steps be taken. For example, ensure a proper network infrastructure layout has been established. If that is not possible, review the current infrastructure and determine which areas can be enhanced or re-engineered to improve performance. Often, a single infrastructure bottleneck is found to be a significant source of performance issues.
In addition to setting up the infrastructure correctly the network will need ongoing maintenance and monitoring to ensure that other factors such as hardware/software failures, bugs, viruses or misuse of resources are not occurring. Many organizations have begun implementing policies restricting usage of Internet resources to minimize the impact of non-business related activity on the network.