To Stream or Not to Stream

March Madness is upon us - how many of your workers are streaming the games using your company wi-fi?

Are they allowed to stream while on the clock? Many businesses have rules against streaming, and here we'll look at why they would want to limit or deny streaming and how they get it done.

Why Limit Streaming?

Bandwidth Concerns

One of the biggest reasons streaming video is chosen to be limited or not allowed is bandwidth. Bandwidth is a measure of how much total traffic can travel through your internet connection (including traffic leaving and traffic arriving). Typical internet usage doesn't use a lot of bandwidth because there is only traffic while the web pages are loading, and most pages load once and have no dynamic (i.e. constantly updated) content.

When streaming video, bandwidth is being used constantly, and depending on the quality of the stream, a lot of it can be required. If the internet connection becomes saturated with how much bandwidth it can support, everyone will be affected, and it will affect all forms of internet traffic. This includes VoIP calling, remote site backup, email, antivirus and software updates, and regular web pages.

Security Vulnerability

Security can also play an issue with streaming. Some streaming sites are hosting illegitimate content (usually sports being rebroadcast live or movies that haven't been released to video yet). These sites are usually free to use but have malware ridden ads or require software to be installed before the stream will play. The most unpredictable part of network security is the users. They may determine watching a possible upset live is worth installing an extension or software.

Productivity Loss

Streaming typically also can cause a loss of productivity. If you aren't watching the game you may miss a crucial play! (And this may not be the best attitude to have during business hours.) It can be easy to miss emails or other alerts while absorbed in a stream. Also, you may be less willing to make a phone call if you know you're going to miss most of the third quarter.

How Streaming is Limited

Nearly every business has an acceptable use policy in which employees agree to not misuse the internet access they are allowed at work. This isn't always as effective as it is in theory, and more direct methods of usage control are necessary. These direct methods include utilizing a firewall or other network appliance to filter content and prioritize traffic. Taking these steps can guarantee that VoiP and other important traffic is prioritized above all else, so that in the case of bandwidth saturation calls still get through.

Beneficial Streaming

All that being said, not every instance of streaming is harmful. Remote conferences, internet classes, and business-related YouTube (e.g. how-to-videos) are all beneficial streams, which have a positive impact for the overall business. And you can't go overboard on the content blocking either, because things like the company Facebook presence and other social media business sites shouldn't be blocked.

The best way to be on top of internet usage is to work as a team with your employees. Everyone should want to better the business, and understanding how streaming can impact things can go a long way.