By Doug Lowe

Network performance problems are among the most difficult network troubles to track down and solve. If a user simply can’t access the network, it usually doesn’t take long to figure out why: A cable is broken or disconnected, the user’s TCP/IP is misconfigured, a switch is malfunctioning, and so on.

But if the user can access the network, but the network is slow, finding the source of the problem can be more difficult. Here are five common causes of network performance difficulties:

  • Bandwidth hogs: Someone on the network may be monopolizing your bandwidth by downloading gigabytes worth of data, or perhaps streaming music or video. If the network is small, you can walk around casually looking at all your users’ screens to see what’s going on. For a larger network, you’ll need more sophisticated tools to monitor the network traffic. Some network switches, such as those from Meraki, include built-in network monitoring tools that can help you identify bandwidth hogs.

  • Too many devices: You may have too many switches between your workstations and your servers, or you have too many devices aggregated on a single segment.

  • Malfunctioning devices: Sometimes, a single device can malfunction and swarm a network with bogus traffic. If a particular workstation is experiencing slow network speeds, try connecting that network to a different switch port or try replacing the cable.

  • Not enough bandwidth: The problem could simply be that your network has outgrown the bandwidth capacity of your Internet service provider (ISP). You may need to upgrade to a higher level of service.

  • Overloaded servers: One common source of network performance problems is servers that are overloaded with too many duties. If you’re trying to run all your network applications — email, file sharing, company intranet, SQL Server, and your accounting software — on a single server, your poor server is probably exhausted. Get another server or two to share the load. Or consider upgrading the server’s RAM capacity or adding additional network interfaces.