Are you starting to get a little bit excited about the FIFA World Cup in Brazil yet or could you really not care less? Whether you’re hoping that you’re teleported to a turf free universe this summer or just can’t wait for kick off, there will be no escaping the consequences for corporate network performance.
You see, while the players are concerned about heat and humidity affecting performance, a network manager should be more concerned with the timings of the matches affecting network performance. With the first match of each day starting at 5pm GMT, and the last kicking off at midnight, serious consideration needs to be given to managing and avoiding the consequences of staff streaming live broadcasts and early morning highlights.
The trouble is that we live in an event based society. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about sporting events, like the World Cup or the Commonwealth Games, or breaking news and entertainment, like the Oscar Pistorius court case or the BRIT Awards.
Whether we like it or not, a good number of our workforce ensures that they don’t miss them by streaming them live across their company’s network – on company-owned devices or one of the many personal devices they bring with them to work every day.
While on the surface it wouldn’t seem that employees watching a world event on their smartphones, tablets or laptops would be a big deal or create any issue for the company, the reality is that every device streaming an event live takes another bite out of the network’s capacity and can slow productivity. There is also the matter of IT needing to deploy assets to deal with potential problems before they arise and implementing procedures as they do.
A recent survey amongst IT managers and directors to determine how organisations deal with the potential for network slowdowns due to the streaming of large scale events turned up some interesting data points that should be considered by all network administrators.
For instance, one week into the Sochi Olympic Games this year, 33 percent indicated that they had been experiencing adverse network conditions based on employees streaming Olympic events live. Also interesting was the fact that more than 40 percent indicated that streaming of events had been problematic in the past.
These surveys of more than 200 IT admins and network managers highlight the fact that while it’s easier than ever to stream an event on a personal device, the sudden traffic spikes also create problems for corporate networks. Often times, users don’t realise this and often are their own worst enemy as they sit there wondering why certain applications are moving slowly while also watching their favourite team take the penalty.
Many network managers try to tackle these issues by monitoring usage closely during events and blocking event affiliated sites to guard against bandwidth hoarding. However, there are easier ways to deal with the issue while remaining flexible and allowing the workforce to stay connected to their favourite event.
Firstly start with a plan. Educate users on the effects of live streaming on the company and ask that they seek alternative sources, such as the TV in the company lounge. Self-regulation is much better than imposed regulation, however, modifying existing policies for internet access is a good fall back option to make sure that football fans do not impact network capacity this summer.
Secondly, use the technology that’s available to you effectively. Most organisations already have some level of network monitoring and management tool installed but aren’t using it effectively. These tools can help implement strategies for balancing recreational use of network bandwidth with that of its mission-critical role in order to avoid affecting core applications, transactional systems and day-to-day operations.
To achieve a level of command over a corporate network you should consider tracking traffic by the port number, IP address or data packet. This will help you to track, control and balance bandwidth usage. Blacklisting content can be useful but isn’t always the answer. It isn’t that easy to differentiate between valid and invalid streaming content. However, whitelisting applications like Windows Media Player can help as users will not be able to run it without permission.
However you plan to monitor and manage network activity this summer, don’t leave network traffic to chance. Always know exactly how much bandwidth you have and be prepared to make changes on the fly should it become necessary. We all love a great event. Let’s just be sure Brazil 2014 doesn’t become a red card for your network.