The latest craze to go viral on the web is the dance song Harlem Shake, with hundreds, if not thousands of people, gathering in costume to do ‘the shake’ in every conceivable space. Harlem Shake follows hot on the heels of another Internet ‘sensation’ – Gangnam Style; a song and dance routine that racked up over one billion hits on YouTube.
Although Gangnam Style has spawned hundreds of similar video clips, Harlem Shake seems to be a different animal altogether with people across the world organising their own Harlem Shake events and videos and then uploading to YouTube and other social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. According to the Globe and Mail in Australia, up to 4,000 videos of Harlem Shake variations are uploaded to the Internet daily.
The Harlem Shake continues to grab headlines and although for many it is harmless fun, you do not want to run afoul of any law or policy, especially in the workplace. The hilarious performance by a group of miners in Australia brought a smile to many, but their bosses didn’t find it funny at all. They were fired from their high-paying jobs after the performance was deemed a safety hazard. Ouch!
These viral videos are a big headache for IT administrators. Everyone loves a good laugh and respite during work but when you have a few hundred employees watching Gangnam and Harlem clips throughout the day, you have a problem on your hands.
Bandwidth is a very a precious and expensive resource for a company and streaming media has a huge impact on the corporate network. Let’s look at the figures and calculate the impact on bandwidth streamed for a single viral video.
The first hit on YouTube is a 5:30 compilation video of Harlem Shakes. An average one minute of video stream from YouTube is approximately 10Mb of data. At one point, you have 25 employees who are watching it:
25 users x 10MB x 5.5 minutes = 1,375MB in five minutes!
Employees take Internet access and browsing for granted and they often forget the multiplier effect when using bandwidth heavy websites at the office. YouTube, for example, with its artist playlists covering every musical taste, encourages its use as a personalized radio. Online radio is also commonly used by employees for their daily dose of favourite radio shows and music.
Recalculating the amount of bandwidth consumed:
25 users x 10MB x 60 minutes x 5 hours = 75,000MB
75GB! And you wonder why your Internet is somewhat slow? The reality is most people forget to turn off the stream when they leave their desks.
Email, video and teleconferencing, VoIP, instant messaging, VPNs, apart from browsing, are part and parcel of our daily lives – so much so that we simply expect things to work. Employees in a company are of the same mindset. They expect a fast Internet connection and anything slower than what they are used to, at home, for example, is totally unacceptable and results in a constant flow of complaints when the connection is slow or not working well. It’s then up to the administrator to figure out a solution to a problem that employees are the cause of themselves.
If you are an IT admin or senior executive with your eye on the expenses sheet, what can you do?
Many web filters today allows admins to set bandwidth quotas. In the example given above, we don’t need to enforce a percentage quota of, say 10% of available bandwidth at any given moment, because this won’t have any effect (streaming media won’t consume 10% of available bandwidth by any single person). The problem is the cumulative effect of the stream. You would need to introduce bandwidth quotas by volume.
The introduction of a 100MB quota per day in our offices reduced the bandwidth consumed by streaming media by 66%. The great thing about quotas is that with reasonable usage of YouTube for office related purposes, an employee is unlikely to hit the quota in a day. If they do, an exception can be applied to give them a higher quota.
If your bandwidth costs are calculated based on usage, you can quickly see how quotas can save you quite a lot of money too!
Streaming of viral videos like the Harlem Shake, Gangnam Style, and other streaming media can have a negative impact on the corporate network. IT admins should not forget the threat of a malware infection because these trends are picked up on by hackers who entice users to visit their infected sites.
With a web filter in place, along with quotas, IT admins can improve the quality of their Internet connection, keep the workforce happy and malware at bay. If you have seen a drastic change in bandwidth consumption over the past month or so, it pays to have the tools to check what is going on and take action to solve the problem before it gets worse.