Make the save: managing your network during the World Cup

Don't let the World Cup slow down your business
Video streams can guzzle bandwidth during big sporting events

Your country's team may have been eliminated, but that doesn't mean your employees are going to stop watching the remainder of the World Cup during work hours. In fact, streaming of the World Cup this year is at an all time high.

Video streaming and IP broadcast of the World Cup is expected to generate 4.3 exabytes of internet traffic – nearly three times Brazil's average monthly traffic, according to a Cisco report.

During the United States versus Germany game on 26 July, ESPN reported 1.7 million simultaneous streams. This massive influx actually led to streaming problems on the ESPN website and many fans were unable to access the live video at certain portions of the game. There's a huge demand to watch these games live, so it's inevitable that this may conflict with the average 9 to 5 work day.

Some companies may try to encourage their employees to not watch the game. Ahead of the USA versus Belgium game, Time Inc. CTO Colin Bodell sent out an internal memo asking employees not to stream the World Cup game on their work computers. While this is a noble effort to maintain productivity, this type of suggestion can sometimes make employees even sneakier and encourage shadow IT.

What to do

If each employee in the office is watching the game simultaneously on his or her own device, the corporate network is going to slow down significantly. The corporate bandwidth will become clogged so that employees may be unable to perform day-to-day tasks on the company network.

As an IT manager or CIO, you need to make sure that your network is equipped to handle this influx of recreational traffic – whether it's from the World Cup, Olympics or March Madness. Even if a company doesn't sanction recreational network activity, many of your employees will try to watch regardless. I've outlined a few ideas to keep in mind as you try to control this type of unexpected traffic.

Encourage a single viewing area

As a starting point, if 50 of your employees will be watching game, think about streaming the game in one location such as a company break room. Having 50 individuals streaming the game on their own computer on device will clog the network, so having a single location is preferable.

Monitor your company's network closely

Officials at the Transportation Department in Washington DC were concerned that too many employees would watch online from their desks that it would significantly slow down the agency's computer network. To combat this problem, the department's CIO Todd Simpson and his team closely monitored bandwidth usage throughout the day and planned to block any streaming sites if they encountered network issues.

Deprioritize unessential traffic and prioritize essential corporate traffic

You can deploy software solutions that allow you to offload superfluous traffic to slower networks and Internet connections. This type of software can detect the change at the byte level and update each device's network memory accordingly for maximum performance efficiency.

This ensures that essential file sharing services on your corporate network won't slow down, even while your employees are watching a slower stream of the latest game.

Identify and isolate network bottlenecks

There's a wide range of automation tools available on the market that can help resolve congestion points. Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZDK Research, suggests that companies "look for a tool that can help identify congestion that can automate the configuration of QoS across the network."

The World Cup is yet another example of the inevitable use of recreational traffic on a company's network. Every day employees will bypass IT and their supervisors in order to download a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application or live stream a video. IT departments should be prepared to reign in all forms of shadow IT – even during a soccer match.

  • Jae Lee is the director of cloud product management at Silver Peak