Hybrid working causes 139% increase in peak office bandwidth

Published by Colt Technology Services on March 14, 2024

Hybrid work is having a major impact on network traffic in offices. The peak bandwidth at our London office (Colt House) jumped 139% from 2020, even with a 84% reduction in devices on the network. As more people head back into the office, IT managers and their teams need to consider the impact of new collaboration tools and whether their infrastructure has the capacity and agility to manage changing demand.

Colt House network traffic infographicBack in 2020, we had a peak average of 720 devices on our network at Colt House, taken from a fairly average week. If we compare this to new data from the end of 2023, where only 115 devices were on the network, the peak bandwidth more than doubled from 120Mbps to 287Mbps. Even when compared with 2022 (where we were used to hybrid working) the peak still almost doubled, up from 152Mbps.

This shows the impact of collaboration applications and video calls on office digital infrastructure. The challenge for CIOs and their teams is how to best manage and budget for network capacity, when some days could see just a handful of people in the office and others a peak that’s more than double pre-pandemic levels.

As an example, on the 2nd November 2023, we had 741 devices on our network. This was the first day after our acquisition of Lumen EMEA completed and many Colties were in the office. On this day, there was an even split between secure web and video on our network, taking up a huge 72% of the overall network usage between them. But on Mondays and Fridays, Colt House is much quieter with just a fraction of the network traffic.

With more employees returning to the office, it’s vital that businesses have networks that can handle jumps in use during busier periods. Flexible solutions like Colt On Demand facilitate this so they can cope with surges and only pay for what they need.

Data and security – make or break

When we looked into why our network peak bandwidth increased considerably (+88%) from 2022 to 2023, the growth in secure web traffic (+72%) was a major factor. In March 2023, we implemented a cloud-based, zero-trust security product from Zscaler. This has bolstered our security and improved the working experience for our 6,000+ hybrid working Colties.

The proportion of security traffic has increased relative to the total bandwidth because traffic is now being routed through the Zscaler solution. This new addition is also why general internet use has seen a 52% decrease from 2022 to 2023. Some of the applications used in 2022 under the category of unsecure web have now moved to secure web because they are going through secure web gateways.

Our latest brand research revealed that ‘improving security’ is the top IT priority for most companies in the next 12 months. How they manage, protect and leverage data for the best interests of their customers, employees and business will become the linchpin for success.

But as technology evolves, so do threats. Security (and in particular cyber threats) is the leading concern for tech companies like Colt in 2024. It’s business critical and we will continue to see companies prioritise cyber security and invest in data protection tools this year. In fact, our latest Digital Infrastucture Report revealed that businesses intend to spend the biggest on security over the next two years.

The rise of video conferencing and how Colt can help

While security solutions can take up added bandwidth, so too can the use of video. The other major factor in our 88% increase in network bandwidth from 2022 to 2023 was the jump in video traffic (34%), a famously bandwidth hungry application.

In the modern workplace, employees need to be able to use reliable video conferencing software from whatever working space they’re using. This is why it’s important to have infrastructure which facilitates video conferencing and cloud prioritisation for the best user experience.

While On Demand can help with surges in bandwidth consumption, a solution like Colt’s IP Access enables prioritisation of traffic to the cloud, giving you a reliable performance of cloud-based applications like Microsoft Teams. These communications systems are not just tools, but ecosystems that connect people and processes, turning remote work into a synchronised and efficient process. 2024 is set to bring some exciting advancements in remote working tools and technologies and there is a growing market for technologies which support cloud-based, collaborative and mobile work.

As businesses adapt to changing hybrid working models, there’s no denying that increases in office network traffic require robust infrastructure. Going forwards, IT teams must assess their infrastructure’s capacity to handle evolving demands, particularly with the proliferation of collaboration tools. By building and factoring in agility, security and user experience, users will get the best experience and technology teams can make best use of resources and budgets.


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