Maximizing Internet/Network Performance

While we’ve taken many steps to expand our network access and performance over the past few months, the reality is that all networks face hard limits in terms of the amount of data that can be moved at once.  

In order to ensure that teachers and students are able to maximize internet and network performance, here are a few useful tips:

Share Common Materials in One Place

This is most relevant for video – which requires far more data than images, text, websites, and most other resources – but has an impact regardless.  If I want my class to watch a fantastic 15-minute TED Talk about physics, for instance, projecting the video from one computer rather than having 30 students stream it simultaneously can reduce demand on the network by  more than 9 gigabytes.  Put another way, a classroom full of students streaming HD video creates enough data demand to monopolize our entire district’s 3Gb internet connection for about 30 seconds; a single teacher streaming the video would only monopolize our connection for a fraction of one second.  

Minimize non-Instructional or non-Critical Demands During the School Day

As a rule, our bandwidth utilization drops dramatically when the school day ends, meaning that demand on our network is highest while school is in session.  While I won’t ask – and there shouldn’t be any need, in 2017, to ask – that teachers and students eliminate all non-instructional uses of the network, there are some steps that can be taken to maximize network availability for mission critical network activities. Here are a few steps that you can take: 

  • Pause or turn off streaming video/radio when not in use: It’s not uncommon for our staff and faculty to stream audio and video; NPR and CNN are in heavy use during prep periods and at other times of the day.  While this does not create an inherent problem for our network, we can increase network availability for others by making sure to pause those streams when they’re not actively in use.  
  • Consider pausing file storage applications during school hours: Many of our staff use Google Drive, Dropbox, and other applications to synchronize files between the cloud and their computers.  While there’s almost no impact during normal use – synchronizing an Excel file here and there doesn’t use much bandwidth – you might consider pausing the synchronization if there are a large number of files, or very large files, that need to synchronize.  For example, if I take a dozen videos over the weekend that get synchronized to Google Drive via my phone, I might want to pause Google Drive sync when I boot my computer up on Monday so that the videos don’t synchronize during school hours. Instructions for pausing Google Drive are here, and while Dropbox instructions are here.

I certainly don’t intend for these tips to steer people away from making use of our network and bandwidth, but hope that these will help steer those activities in a direction that maximizes performance for all of us.