Have you ever taken time on a break from work to watch YouTube? Maybe catch up on the latest viral video craze or see if anyone you know has done the Harlem Shake or lost a dog called Fenton? Maybe you listen to podcasts like this one or Internet radio while you work. Well, have you ever considered what impact this might be having on the companies network speed?
David Attard and Sergio Gallindo senior product managers at GFi Software are here to tell about some of the things organisations need to consider.
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David, first of all we must say that the use of the Internet within legitimate breaks is a good thing isn’t it?
Yes definitely, people need to make sure that they get their daily dose of video and radio and watching viral videos and checking their emails. This is about making sure people are happy in the workplace. People need to get their daily dose for recreational purposes and just like a cigarette break or coffee break; you get your Internet leisure surfing breaks.
How big is the problem around recreational usage of company bandwidth then, what are organisations seeing as the impact of this traffic?
Having multiple streams coming into the network when people are surfing does have an impact on the business. For instance, using sales force, or when people might be on the phone with customers you will see the impact where phone calls will start to drop out and get jittery. We have actually seen that and what people don’t realise is that when added up, you start to push out what we call ‘good traffic’ where you are actually using the Internet for business.
Surely the obvious answer would be to restrict access to sites and content, but is there anything else, more diplomatic that companies could be doing?
Yes, there are. There is a tremendous amount of value on YouTube when you think about how people are using it for research for instance when they are taking a look at products. More often than not the video is a mechanism to learn about a product or learn how to do something or get a question answered. People really are starting to use that YouTube search engine to get information for their jobs, so blocking it is probably not a good approach. However, monitoring and management is an approach that works. Knowing who is using it is key. There is always the outlying case when one person has decided to stream a ton of videos or watch 2 or 3 videos at a time and we have had experiences where people didn’t realise what they were doing it. In some of the smaller offices that do have limited bandwidth, users often will stream high definition video from their home and say look at this and show their friends, what they don’t realise is that they are taking up all the bandwidth which is a limited resource for many of the small offices. That does impact on productivity so limiting YouTube or blocking YouTube is not the best approach I think management and monitoring is better.
Are there any security risks associated with this sort of traffic be used on the network?
It is a known fact that cyber criminals actually exploit trending topics and people’s natural instinct to actually follow stuff that is trending. Anything that is trending at the moment is bound to be used to lure people into visiting sites that contain malicious items, viruses and Trojans. Because people are naturally curious, they forget about the security risks that are associated with visiting somewhere that is unknown.
What advice would you give IT managers listening to this podcast to start addressing these issues?
You need to be sure that you have the correct tools to manage the problem by having solutions like batch management in place for instance. Another is to monitor to see where people are going and then have the right tools in place to automatically block items that are malicious. So you need to have antivirus engine and software that is basically making sure any places that are visited are safe and also places that are unsafe are actually blocked. Mainly it is important to educate people; but education by itself is not enough. Worksites that are usually safe might get infected and start distributing viruses. One needs to make sure that they have the necessary tools such as filters and anti-virus management tools.
With high-speed Internet connections getting faster all the time, will this problem not just solve itself?
I think the problem is getting worse because of expectations. Peoples expectations for their home internet has gone from having a small amount of dial up to now having equivalent to what you have in your office and in many cases having better connectivity at your home than you do at the office. Office buildings have not quite kept up with the technology that is coming out in the homes. You will have an office building that may have a 10 megabit connection but when you get home you have a 30 megabit connection, or 50 megabit connection. You are watching these videos and you are streaming your Netflix and your expectation is that this is okay when I get to the office because it works at home. When in reality it is the reverse and there are many more people in the office that are using relatively limited bandwidth. So that is why speaking about the three things that we need to worry about, the monitoring, the management and having those policies in place and a bit of education goes a long way. Having people understand that yes, while it is good that you can go to YouTube and research things watching these videos the expectation does need to be managed a bit.
There are some significant costs attached to an issue like this aren’t there?
The business grade Internet cost is one of the largest costs a business can have. By definition that is their lifeline, whether it is cloud storage or using a sales force for their business processes on line or they have voice over IP for their telephones, the fact is they depend on that internet and they need to, and are, spending more to have that service. Where at home when you have ever been on the internet and it pauses for a little bit, or it goes out for 15 minutes or an hour or even a couple of hours it is not that much of an impact, you kind of shrug your shoulders and you move on to something else. For a business, the Internet is their lifeline. They are investing in it and they do need to protect it. Viral videos and the like, whilst creating a good time for people needs resources to monitor it, manage it and be sure that people are educated at what the usuage impacts are.