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How Streaming Media Affects Your Network Bandwidth

What do Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Amazon Music, Spotify, HBO, Pandora, Spotify and scores of other streaming media services all have in common? They can bring your data network to its knees and bring worker productivity to a screeching halt. They can cause hard-to-diagnose network problems, slow your network to a crawl, and create headaches for both IT and human resources.  And, worse of all, many employees use them at work without a second thought to the problems they are creating for your business or their coworkers.

To be clear, there are legitimate reasons to allow employees to access streaming audio or video on your network, such as training, market research, or keeping up with industry news. However, for the vast majority of businesses, there is no legitimate reason to allow employees to access streaming media from their desktop computers. While employees may enjoy streaming music or video while at work, such entertainment has no value to the business, and can cause a number of serious network issues.

Here are three top reasons why you need to adopt a policy today to limit – or completely eliminate – streaming media on your network:

Network congestion: The most common problem caused by media streaming is network congestion. Having several employees streaming video or music at the same time can saturate your network with data and bring your business to a crawl. If enough workers attempt to simultaneously stream, your network may crash altogether as the onslaught of data overwhelms the network switches. Browsing the internet, accessing e-mail – any task that requires access to the internet or to your internal network will slow to a crawl, or completely fail, leaving your employees unable to work.

Human resource headache: We live in a very litigious, easily offended society. Imagine the human resources problems you would face if an employee were watching a video or playing music that offended a fellow employee. There is a great deal of streaming video available on services such as Netflix, Hulu, or even YouTube that may be perfectly acceptable for private, at-home viewing that are grossly inappropriate for a business environment. Streaming media may contact racist, sexist, or other offensive materials that can open your business to charges of harassment or of fostering a hostile work environment. Allowing employees to stream whatever, whenever they like is an invitation an inevitable HR disaster.

Lost productivity: Time spent listening to streaming media or watching YouTube is time that should be spent doing productive work. Streaming media is a massive waste of productive time and resources. You would never tolerate employees stealing office equipment – so why should you tolerate them stealing time and resources that could be contributing to growing your bottom line?

A streaming media policy can help put an end to these concerns, and help control network abuses by employees.

In addition, there are a number of both software and hardware solutions available that you can use to control what streaming media your employees can access, when, and how much bandwidth they can use. For instance, a dedicated hardware firewall can be set up to control what types of streaming media, if any, are allowed into your network from the internet. If you opt to allow streaming media on your network, your network switches may allow for traffic shaping and priority – most modern, managed switches can be configured to do this – which will allow you set up policies in the switches to control how much bandwidth streaming media can consume.

The bottom line is simple. Streaming network robs your business of productivity, and it robs your employees of critical business resources needed to do their jobs. Bandwidth priority should be given to things that serve the basic purpose of furthering your business, not entertaining employees.

Regardless of how your business decides to cope with streaming media, it is important that you take steps today to get this problem under control. The plethora of media streaming options and services will only get larger, and, with the coming of streaming 4K, or ultra-high definition video, the problem will only get worse.

Contact us today if your business is struggling with streaming media, network issues, or general IT support issues. We can provide the professional help and guidance you need to maximize your IT investment.

  • 07/15/2016
  • IT