Supporting a network in a higher-ed setting can be a daunting task. With their proclivity for mobile devices, video games, wearable technology, and laptops (just to name a few), higher ed IT users may not realize how their tech choices can impact the network at large.

Generally, users at higher-ed institutions assume they can have bandwidth on-demand—as much as they want whenever they want—and take advantage of that regularly. These attitudes can mean that the university network becomes a traffic jam; difficult to administrate and nearly impossible to run smoothly.

According to the Association for College and University Technology Advancement (ACUTA), bandwidth on college campuses has nearly doubled since 2012 to accommodate, but it still may not be enough. How is an administrator to manage such a large, growing increase in demand? Don’t panic. There are definite trends in technology usage and several “bandwidth hogs” that make up a majority of network traffic in higher ed. Here are the top four, and a few tips for how to manage them.

Top 4 bandwidth hogs and ways to combat them

1. Laptops
Today’s “traditional” college students will usually bring everything they need with them to college, including their laptops. Laptops have become a necessary part of the university classroom; used by students and teachers to connect, take notes, and have their work at their fingertips during class time. The 2016 ACUTA survey found that, as of 2015, laptops have become the top bandwidth-consuming devices on campus (taking over from mobile devices in previous years). Laptops tend to run programs that require more bandwidth (such as video games, virtual-learning tools, multimedia file storage, or streaming services like Netflix). Additionally, students may use laptops for P2P sharing methods, music downloading, and other high-bandwidth activities that are sure to take a bite out of your network.

The laptop is not going away anytime soon, so consider putting a yearly cap on bandwidth allotment per student login. This will encourage students to take some of their higher-bandwidth-hogging activities to alternate locations, such as a local library or coffee shop, freeing up space on your network.

(Next page: More bandwidth hogs and solutions)

About the Author:

Danielle Rosvally, Ph.D., is a college professor, writer, and technology enthusiast.


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