The single most frustrating part of meeting planning for me lately has been budgeting for bandwidth. Internet access has become a requirement for meetings, and it’s virtually impossible to plan a meeting for the tech crowd without factoring in WiFi -- and I don’t just mean coffee-shop-quality WiFi, but a RELIABLE connection.
Every hotel and convention center seems to price Internet differently. The number of devices people are carrying seems to be growing each year. How can one possibly predict how much bandwidth will be used, and how can we actually guarantee that meeting spaces will accommodate our needs?
If you have experienced this frustration, I am here to tell you: there’s hope. After doing a lot of research, I wanted to share three things I’ve learned about budgeting for bandwidth.
1. You Can Learn a Lot from Your Past
While planning a large conference a few years ago, the in-house AV company was also the Internet provider. We walked into our site inspection empty-handed, basically letting the provider tell us what we needed. Needless to say, we had a lot of issues that year.
Before walking blindly into a conversation with a hotel Internet provider, gird yourself with your event history. Jot down the total bandwidth used, how many IP requests were made hourly, and the traffic volume at peak usage. If you don’t have it handy, try asking your A/V or Internet provider from your last event for this information. Your chances will be good if the event happened recently.
Tip: Ask your IT department at work about how much bandwidth is used for a group of <your event size>. Depending on your company, this could be a great place to start.
By asking an internal resource, I got a basic understanding of how much bandwidth a group of 200 may use with a mix of engineers, IT folks, and business folks, and I then compared it with a great online resource.
2. You Can Always Negotiate
Like most things, Internet rates are negotiable. I discovered that most hotels and convention centers are equipped with a certain level of bandwidth, and it does not cost them anything extra to extend more bandwidth to your group. That doesn’t mean it didn’t cost them anything to wire up their spaces or that they have unlimited bandwidth, but knowing it’s a soft cost provides a lot more room to negotiate.
While it’s a faux pas to ask for free dedicated WiFi, most hotels and convention centers can offer it at a discount, especially if your group is holding a significant chunk of the meeting space.
I have only wised up to this knowledge in recent contracts, so I pass this on hoping you can benefit from my shortcomings. And if you want to be extra thorough in your contract, request a summary of Internet stats after the close of the event (total bandwidth used, IP requests made hourly, and at peak usage). That way, you will be ready with your history for the next event when it comes.
3. Test It Before You Sign
Before doing all this research, I had no idea how to test for adequate bandwidth during a site inspection. “I’m just one person,” I thought. “What will happen once 100 people want to log on?” Many hotels have WiFi available in shared spaces like the lobby and guestrooms. Unless you ask for dedicated Internet in your meeting spaces secure with a private password, you may be sharing bandwidth with other hotel guests.
One easy online tool to use during a site inspection is a quick bandwidth speed test. After the hotel assures you that they have the bandwidth to accommodate your group, verify that it’s up to speed while you are on site. You might also want to ask for references and actually contact them.
Also, make sure you do a basic sanity test. If email access is all your attendees will need, then sending an email should definitely be part of your test. Try downloading a large file, uploading a photo to social media, and streaming a video on YouTube. The connection should pass this basic test or else it will not stand a chance when multiple users ping the network.
Prices can vary a great deal depending on the amount of bandwidth you need. It’s important to determine how much you will need before budgeting, but once you do that, hopefully these tips will help you in estimating your bandwidth budget.
Remember that you are only limited by what you do not know, so do your homework and find out your usage history, negotiate based on what you know, and test it before you sign. In recent negotiations, it has meant the difference between budgeting a few thousand for Internet needs and tens of thousands more.
I hope these tips are helpful to you, please test them out and let me know how it goes! Do you plan events? What other bandwidth worries have you faced? Leave me a comment!
For more information about Liferay Events, visit www.liferay.com/events.