5 Tips To Help Your Network Survive The 2012 Olympic Games

Network Bandwidth

With London 2012 just over six months away the preparation and excitement for these Olympic Games continues to grow. With an anticipated one million people descending on London to enjoy 26 different sports, the increase in network traffic will put a huge strain on business critical applications.

The pressure on the UK’s telecoms infrastructure and company’s network traffic load during London 2012 will be unprecedented. Although the Games are still six months away, it’s important that businesses start to plan ahead to avoid unexpected service outages.

There will be employees who wish to watch certain events or indeed the entire sports event. Depending on how these employees’ wishes fit in with corporate policy and IT security configuration, for example which websites are accessible, will dictate how much extra load can be placed on the network.

There are a number of ways employees may keep track of the events, most likely in streaming video through sites such as iPlayer but there is also streaming audio, text-based updates and social media.

If a significant event occurs, employees may visit video sharing sites such as YouTube to replay the event and share amongst their colleagues. Unless your business concerns following sporting events (e.g. online betting, news etc) ,you will no doubt wish to limit the impact this additional traffic has on the network.

In order to help companies protect their business critical applications whilst also giving employees the freedom to enjoy the 2012 Olympic Games, I have compiled 5 top tips for protecting and prioritising traffic whilst still giving users the freedom to watch the games if there is capacity.

1. Identify your network traffic load and the causes of poor performance

Through application performance monitoring devices including Visual Networks, SolarWinds and Ipanema, business can not only identify network load but also the causes of the load and if a particular user or application is congesting the network. IT staff can use this equipment to identify how its company’s business critical traffic is performing with a view to knowing how then to protect and prioritise it from non-critical traffic.

2. Protect your business critical traffic from non-critical traffic

Achieving this requires intelligent traffic shaping devices such as those from Ipanema. These can monitor the quality of your applications and via a set of criticality rules and quality of service goals, business can ensure that critical sensitive traffic such as Voice, Citrix and internal web-based applications are given the service quality they require. Non critical traffic such as streaming video can be allowed should there be sufficient network capacity.

3. Use WAN Acceleration devices capable of stream splitting

It is highly likely that more than one user at an office location will be streaming the same live video. This is where WAN acceleration devices such as those from Riverbed and Bluecoat can be used to proxy the video streaming so that only a single stream is requested across the WAN link and relayed to the local requesting hosts. This is in contrast to a non-optimised environment where each host receives the same video stream via the WAN, adding much more traffic to the network.

4. Take advantage of multiple WAN links

If there are multiple links including a private MPLS link and Internet link, consider directing your business critical traffic via the MPLS circuit whilst using the cheaper but less reliable Internet link for browsing and video streaming traffic. That way, business applications do not compete with users attempting to stream HD video content or browse websites.

5. Provide a common room with a large TV screen for employees to gather

This will make the whole event more sociable and by using a freeview box to receive the TV over the air you are eliminating any load on the network. Please note productivity may suffer if this is accessible all day!

Dr Steven Turner is VP of IT Optimisation at Intergence, a leading independent IT optimisation consultancy. He specialises in Network Optimisation and has successfully completed a large number of optimisation projects for clients in both the public and private sector. Steve is Cisco CCNA and CCNA security certified and is currently studying CCNP. Steve has gained a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from the University of Warwick, and an MSc in Network Systems from the University of Sunderland. He then completed a PhD using genetic algorithms in conjunction with parallel processing to produce a multi-utility network optimisation tool.