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Preventing public streaming events impacting on network availability

By Lawrence Garvin and Don Jacob.

Huge public streaming events such as the Winter Olympics can impact on the availability of enterprise networks: and the effects are intensifying, for several reasons.

More people than ever before are using mobile devices: Gartner recently reported (1) that 968 million smartphones were sold in 2013, an increase of 42 percent from 2012 – and high profile events 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.

Additionally most mobile devices now support HD Video. Stressed by this massive increase in multimedia streaming volumes, the capacity and availability of communications and Internet infrastructure is coming under increasing pressure. The negative effect on business networks can be substantial.

Clearly businesses need to counter network access disruption to guard against declining employee productivity and revenue loss. The following tips will help companies speed up their networks and react to the impact that live streaming can have:

1. Prioritise traffic

Internet bandwidth can be classified into business critical; business related; and recreational. New requirements such as BYOD (bring your own device), social media and increasing tolerance for personal uses like online shopping and webmail have led to a significant increase in recreational traffic. This will slow business critical and business related traffic. This combined with the added pressure on the network, caused by streaming, can cause big issues for a company of any size.
So how can businesses react to this? The implementation of a quality of service (QoS) solution will allow IT pros to prioritise traffic and even block or drop unwanted IP conversations. QoS provides options such as traffic shaping, bandwidth throttling and rate limiting to ensure that business critical services receive priority.

2. Optimise the WAN

Distributed networks are the norm today, with almost every enterprise having some inter-branch data transfer. A few extra milliseconds of latency or reduced bandwidth will have significant impact on business continuity and a WAN optimiser can help, providing near-LAN like performance for specific traffic types.

3. BYOD out!

Although most enterprises support BYOD, not all employees use their devices for work alone: social media, streaming videos, downloads and peer-to-peer eat up a large chunk of the network. This leads to productivity issues, because both the core network and ISP bandwidth are being consumed.

Adding bandwidth is not the answer here. Rather, create separate WLANs for guests, employee mobile devices and enterprise devices. Also maintain different traffic types on different VLANs to boost security and ensure that traffic from mobile devices does not affect enterprise traffic.

Also, don’t forget that speed limiting can be implemented when it’s needed. By monitoring network traffic you can identify when and how bandwidth is being consumed, as well as by whom and by what applications, thereby reacting to the issue at the source.

By following these simple steps, businesses can ensure that they come out on top of the bandwidth battle.

The authors
Lawrence Garvin and Don Jacob are ‘Head Geeks’ at SolarWinds.

(1) http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2665715

•Date: 19th February 2014 • World •Type: Article • Topic: ICT continuity

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