To connect all the network components, multiple devices and the huge volumes of data flowing through them, modern businesses and work environments require a fast, secure and stable network infrastructure. Optimal network performance and the best user experience require high uptime. An issue like severe network congestion can negatively affect the user experience as well as the overall performance of the business, leading to revenue losses.

Network congestion occurs when the amount of data being transmitted through a network exceeds its capacity to handle that data. This backup of data traffic occurs when too many communication and data requests are made at the same time over a network that doesn’t have enough network bandwidth to carry them. While network congestion is usually temporary, it can cause inconvenient network issues that can affect performance and be an indication of a larger problem in your network. Therefore, it's important to have network performance monitoring tools that can proactively detect network congestion in your own network as well as outside it.

The Causes

In order to fix network congestion, you need to understand the causes. Here are some of the most common reasons why network congestion occurs.

First are the “broadcast storms,” the term for when a network is flooded with requests. This could happen, for example, on an unusually busy day for an e-Commerce business or when a video goes viral, creating a situation where a network can't process all the requests at once. Secondly, the low bandwidth: when considering the network as a pipe channeling data, bandwidth refers to how much data is being channeled through the pipe. If the network is not large enough for all the traffic to move through at once, problems arise with traffic not flowing smoothly, instead causing congestion. Also, this flow can be affected during peak TV streaming hours, when a video streaming service is consuming most of the internet, resulting in a prime example of network congestion.

Thirdly, the misconfiguration of network devices is a common cause of network congestion. This could be caused, for example, when network engineers introduce bugs into the system via repetitive and one-off scripts, which can be fought over by maintenance and testing: Like all components of technology infrastructure, lack of maintenance on network devices and lack of network traffic monitoring can lead to unexpected breakdowns. Moreover, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, where DDoS infiltrations can overload a network with excessive traffic, can lead to further network congestion and disruptions as well. And lastly, any packet loss or data packets that arrive damaged clearly need to be resent; if this is happening two or more times, it can result in network congestion without providing any incremental benefit.

The Prevention

Preventing network congestion issues can be challenging, but there are several steps that network administrators can take to minimize the risk of network congestion and ensure that the network operates smoothly and efficiently:

  • Monitor network traffic: A major benefit of monitoring traffic is the capacity to design or re-design a more viable network optimized for your needs. Segmenting your network into smaller sub-networks will increase efficiency and create space to establish practical priorities. This not only permits more accurate monitoring but also produces a more viable network.
  • Upgrade network infrastructure: Upgrading the network infrastructure can increase bandwidth capacity and reduce the risk of network congestion. This can include upgrading switches, routers and network cards.
  • Implement Quality of Service (QoS) policies: Quality of Service (QoS) is a method for prioritizing network traffic and can solve network issues to keep the bandwidth under control. By using QoS mechanisms, network administrators can use existing resources efficiently and ensure the required level of service without reactively expanding or over-provisioning their networks.
  • Identify and address malware or virus infections: Malware or virus infections can generate excessive traffic on the network. Identifying and addressing these infections can help reduce network congestion.
  • Optimize network applications: Optimizing network applications such as email or file transfers can reduce the amount of traffic that is generated.

Why Network Congestion Is a Major Challenge in Africa

Network congestion is a significant challenge in Africa due to a combination of factors, such as the lack of network infrastructure, slow internet speeds and limited bandwidth. The continent's rapid population growth and increasing demand for digital services have put a strain on the existing network infrastructure, causing congestion in many areas.

One of the main causes of network congestion in Africa is the limited bandwidth available in many regions. Bandwidth is a measure of the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over a network in a given period, and it is critical to ensuring a smooth and fast data transfer. Many areas in Africa have limited bandwidth due to the high cost of internet infrastructure development, which has slowed down the deployment of high-speed internet services.

To address network congestion in Africa, there needs to be more investment in network infrastructure, including the deployment of high-speed internet services, the expansion of bandwidth and the optimization of network traffic. Additionally, measures such as load balancing, traffic shaping and network segmentation can also help to prevent congestion. The adoption of new technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) can also help optimize network traffic and reduce congestion.

Overall, network congestion remains a significant challenge in Africa, but with the right investment and adoption of new technologies, it is possible to overcome this challenge and provide better network performance for users across the continent.

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