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Small businesses of fifteen employees or less often face huge costs they haven’t experienced before when they begin to grow to fifty and beyond. The obvious costs of managing an expanding team include salaries for employees and time spent on recruiting, and some companies choose to expand benefits in order to appeal to new team members. It’s a make-or-break time for many businesses, and maintaining productivity throughout the process of expansion is paramount. General Networks has seen some of the challenges expanding businesses face first-hand, both within our own company and while aiding in the growth of our clients.

One item that is often left unaddressed until it causes grumbling amongst new hires is a slow internet speed at the main office. As additional employees fill seats, a connection that used to comfortably serve fifteen employees may now be expected to serve fifty. Sales and marketing efforts expand, and the pipelines become choked with email traffic. The R&D team may be forced to sift through a lot of offsite data prior to the next product release. At a time when there is more work to be done than ever before, it actually becomes difficult to accomplish much work at all.

When this happens, there are two ways a business may approach the issue:

1. Throw money at the problem. Simply expanding your internet bandwidth would solve the problem of a slow connection. However, it would also create a budgetary problem of its own. Not only that, but an expanded contract would continue to cost more every monthWith payroll already higher than ever before, and capital investments being made to expand operations, there would simply not be enough left in the budget to justify doubling the expense for the monthly internet contract.

2. Examine your business’s traffic. Rather than treating just the symptom — a slow connection in the office — it’s worth identifying the actual cause of the problem occurring within your network. You might ask yourself:

  • What websites are my users visiting?
  • Do the work-related sites my employees visit consume bandwidth heavily, or should my team be able to visit a large number of those pages without a huge impact on connection speed?
  • Are there a lot of non-work-related site visits (e.g. YouTube, ESPN, Facebook, TMZ, etc.) that are consuming large amounts of data at a time when productivity is very important to my business?

If you’re not sure about the answers to these questions, there are some straightforward ways to find out so that you can solve the problem of a slow connection without resorting to paying the cable company. Two options include:

  1. ​Implementing web content filtering on your company’s firewall. This step limits employees’ ability to visit sites that are not work-related, freeing up the available bandwidth for other employees to be productive and keeping those individuals on-task throughout the day. Two birds with one stone!
  2. Considering a dedicated web filtering appliance. Making changes to a firewall can be difficult for a small organization. Some companies don’t have IT staff on hand to implement these kinds of changes, and making them often requires downtime. If this is the case for your organization, you may want to consider a web filtering appliance. Some of these appliances are much more user-friendly than a firewall, and they can also provide a more detailed level of reporting and site filtering. While there is a cost attached to web filtering appliances, it may be significantly less than the recurring cost of a “better” plan from the cable company. This approach also has the same benefits as the firewall —keeping employees on-task while freeing up bandwidth for the expanded team.

Though the task of growing a business can bring about countless concerns that seem to pop-up out of nowhere, a sluggish internet connection doesn’t have to be one that slows you down. Evaluating the productivity of your staff, who spends their time on the internet throughout the day (whether working or not), will ultimately lead you to take the right action so you can pay dividends without a growing internet bill.