This post attempts to answer one of the most common questions posed by new customers when they are considering moving SIMS from their local set-up in school to be hosted with us.
The common questions
- How much bandwidth is required to use the Scomis Hosted Application Service to access SIMS & FMS?
- Will my schools internet connection be capable of providing reliable access to the Scomis Hosted Application Service?
The simple answer
Many schools now have access to high quality internet services that will be more than capable of delivering a good experience of using SIMS with our Hosted Application Service provided they are managed effectively.
Before we discuss the detail of what can largely be an “it depends” answer we need to understand how to measure the speed and quality of an internet connection. Typically a schools Internet connection speed will be measured in terms of throughput in Megabits per second but latency which measures the responsiveness of the connection and is usually measured in milliseconds has a much greater bearing on the user experience of our service.
A good analogy to explain the difference and how these two measurements relate to your internet connection is a garden hose. You turn on the tap then wait a short time before water arrives in a trickle or a flood, depending on how far you opened the tap or the thickness of your hose. The time it took for the water to arrive initially equates to the latency of your connection. The amount or volume of water coming out equates to the throughput or speed.
You can see that it is possible to have a very high speed connection (which is good) but also at the same time you could have a high latency if you had a very long hose.
Thankfully most internet services available to schools will have a very low latency when managed effectively and therefore provide a great experience of using our service.
As ever there are exceptions; for example there are some schools, particularly in rural areas where alternative connectivity though the user of Satellite, Bonded Connections or Mobile networks using 3/4G will be in use. Typically these suffer from high latency and will not provide a good experience of our service to users.
Even in these situations measures can be put in place to deal with the problem, for example in terms of a satellite connection your provider may be able to provide a low capacity ADSL connection alongside which could be dedicated to the use of our service.
Well Managed Connection
We’ve mentioned a couple of times that a good experience is dependent on a well-managed connection. This is because internet connections will suffer a degradation of service when they become saturated, most commonly in the form of high latency.
Generally a connection becomes saturated once its utilisation is over 80% of the stated speed, so for example if your school has a 10MB/s connection but regularly uses over 8MB/s you may suffer performance problems that will be borne out by a poor experience for users of our service or other similar services such as Internet Telephony (VOIP).
You should make use of the tools provided by your internet service provider to regularly monitor the usage of your connection. If you find it has become saturated you can decide whether to pay for an increase in speed (if available to you) or implement traffic management locally by restricting access to some services.
Good internal network and Wi-Fi
On top of managing your Internet Connection you’ll need to ensure the internal network is also performing well. In particular the wireless network because overloaded access points can introduce latency which as discussed earlier will impact your users experience of our service. Scomis offer a range of services in this area including Wireless Surveys where problem zones can be identified – please contact us for more information
Our service is based upon the industry standard Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) which is very highly efficient. In terms of actual speed requirements per user Microsoft recommend 25KB/s of bandwidth.
For those interested in the deeply technical side of things please see the following excellent articles:
- Top 10 RDP Protocol Misconceptions – Part 1
- Top 10 RDP Protocol Misconceptions – Part 2
- Microsoft RDP Performance Whitepaper
Real world recommendations
Scomis have many years’ experience of RDP technology and with the scale of our service can confidently state that even a relatively low speed 2MB/s connection could provide a great experience of our service for the typical 15-25 user primary school so long as it was managed effectively.
To serve around 4,000 sessions Scomis average around 40MB/s of throughput which shows that each session is on average using a very small amount of bandwidth, much less than the Microsoft 25KB/s recommendation. However individual sessions will use higher amounts in short bursts when new screens are being opened etc. so you need to allow a healthy overhead.
Scaling our real world advice up for a secondary school; again a typical 20-30Mb/s connection should be more than enough but you may have more local challenges. Balancing the use of other bandwidth intensive services such as video and audio streaming will be important in ensuring your connection does not become saturated and suffer an overall performance drop.
Backup & Business Continuity
The Scomis Hosted Application Service provides seamless connectivity with our dedicated connector. Therefore staff could work from home or another school in the event of your internet connection being unavailable.
For larger Primary schools or Secondary schools we recommend you consider having a backup connection which forms part of your Business Continuity planning – your internet service provider will be able to advise what is available to you.
A backup connection will commonly be of a much lesser speed but your provider should be able to prioritise the traffic to our service in the event that this route is needed. Alternatively local measures could be put in place to block non business critical services in the event of the backup connection being required. For example turning off access to YouTube, Facebook or other media streaming sites at your proxy would help a lower capacity backup line cope if it was needed.
Try us out
If you are thinking about moving your SIMS onto our service we always recommend you try it out before hand and are happy to set-up a demonstration account which can be shared amongst your team.