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5 tips for maintaining the corporate network during World Cup 2014

Whether you're a fan of the World Cup or not, a combination of time differences between England and Brazil and a trend towards device duplicity amongst staff members is brewing up serious trouble for IT infrastructures.

When the first match of the day typically kicks off at 5pm, smartphones, tablets and laptops will be streaming footage live from offices around the UK. First thing in the morning, staff can be found streaming highlights from the match they couldn't stay up to watch the night before.

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Whether we like it or not, a good number of employees will ensure they don't miss out and others will sit complaining that applications are moving slowly. IT needs to be prepared to deploy assets to deal with potential problems before they arise and implement procedures as they do.

Game plan

Always have a game plan. The best place to start is by coaching staff on the effects of live streaming on the company and ask that they seek alternative sources, such as the TV in the company lounge.

Stick to the rulebook

Self-regulation is much better than imposed regulation, however, modifying existing company policies for Internet access is a good fallback option to make sure that football fans do not impact network capacity.

Talk tactics

Get tactical and make the most of the tools available to you. To achieve a level of command over the corporate network, you should consider tracking traffic by port number, IP address or data packet. This will help track, control and balance bandwidth usage. Most organisations already have some level of network monitoring and management tools installed but aren't using them effectively. These tools can balance recreational use of network bandwidth with mission-critical usage.

Follow form

Know your players and their form. If you can't find an offender, you can't defend yourself in the contest for available bandwidth. Check to see if your network monitoring software can blow the whistle if bandwidth demands suddenly spike, and then check to see if it can 'drill down' to identify the users causing the spike.

Yellow card, red card, off

Once you know who your bandwidth 'players' are, a few words on company policy will often suffice. If that doesn't reduce demand, go to the next level.

Blacklisting content can be useful but isn't always the answer. It isn't that easy to differentiate between valid and invalid streaming content. There are easier ways to deal with the issue while remaining flexible and allowing the workforce to stay connected to their favourite event. Whitelisting applications like Windows Media Player can help, as users will not be able to run it without permission.

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However, players that consistently go above and beyond the data needs of their jobs can have their access to streaming sites limited or cut off altogether, automatically. And unlike with dirty tackles on the field, the perpetrators probably won't dare complain about your decision. Always know exactly how much bandwidth you have and be prepared to make changes on the fly should it become necessary.

Ennio Carboni is the executive vice president of customer solutions at Ipswitch