Keeping business networks running smoothly during live streaming events such as Winter Olympics

While IT professionals may not be surprised by the impact that huge public streaming events like the current Winter Olympics have on their networks, the results may come as an unpleasant shock to a business’s general management. 

More people than ever before are using mobile devices – the numbers just keep on growing – and high profile events such as the Olympics are a natural target for live streaming. Consider the Winter Olympics. A million devices are being streamed at 50-100 Mb/sec, compared to 2012 when some hundred thousand devices were streaming at 10Mb/sec. Plus most mobile devices now support HD Video. 

With many organisations allowing mobile devices on their enterprise WLAN and with massive increase in multimedia streaming, there will be a significant impact on network bandwidth which in turn can impact business continuity too.

Impact on business

Any congestion on WAN bandwidth may impact multiple business aspects – examples are branch office, data centres, cloud or hosted services communications, back up programs (but then backup shouldn’t be done during business hours!) and productivity of employees who are trying to work in between all the streaming. If your customer facing web servers are also in the same network, you could be looking at revenue loss too.

Clearly businesses need to counter likely network access disruption, to guard against declining employee productivity and revenue loss. Those external events can cause network downtime, just as much as internal events and glitches can. 

Impact on business applications

Today, business-critical applications or services including file sharing, Internet utilities, storage backup, encrypted tunnels and infrastructure account for over 70 per cent of bandwidth consumption, while video accounts for about 14 per cent. This leaves a scant 16 per cent of available bandwidth for email, databases and all other categories. Doubling of video traffic, especially HD video, will rapidly eat into any free bandwidth you may have had.

While businesses could take a more “draconian” approach to this potential problem and simply block all traffic related to the Games or any live streaming, it may also impact when your employees need to tune into a live webcast or other useful live streams. 

There are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that business requirements are protected, while still giving employees the freedom to watch live streams:

1. Monitor your current traffic profile

There are numerous hardware and software tools that allow you to monitor and profile current network traffic to identify when and how bandwidth is being consumed, as well as by whom and by what applications. Further, many tools deliver the ability to map bandwidth usage and its impact on your applications.

2. Establish traffic management or quality of service (QoS) policies

Various network traffic management tools allow a business to establish QoS policies to ensure that non business applications are policed or throttled and business-critical traffic such as VoIP or those to your data centre or cloud takes priority over non-essential traffic.

3. Don’t add more bandwidth yet

Purchasing additional bandwidth is not the only way to increase your bandwidth capacity. In addition to QoS, technologies such as WAN acceleration and optimisation will effectively help better the performance of your WAN.

So, if blocking all unwanted traffic is not an option, monitor your traffic and then leverage on the information to implement QoS or WAN optimisation options. If all else fails, as a last resort you could always consider adding more bandwidth.

Written by Don Thomas Jacob and Lawrence Garvin of SolarWinds.

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