What are the effects of streaming on your network?

With the NCAA basketball tournaments in full swing, millions of people across the country have filled out their brackets and are caught up in March Madness fever.

The enthusiasm for the tournaments – combined with games being played during business hours – presents a challenge for companies because employees will surely wind up live streaming games on their computers and mobile devices, which may cripple the company’s network and crucial business applications in the process.

As streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube proliferate online, many companies find their networks increasingly congested by employees watching sports, movies, goofball videos, etc. This forces more companies to block or limit employees’ access to entertainment websites via the company’s network to maintain space for critical business functions.

A survey commissioned by a streaming-video giant Netflix showed that 37 percent of Americans admitted they have binged television shows or movies on the online streaming service while at work. U.S. workers were more likely to stream from the office, while users worldwide were more likely to stream during their commutes.

How much of your bandwidth is being used by employee personal streaming?

Bandwidth is one of the biggest reasons why a lot of companies today limit or block streaming sites. When streaming videos, bandwidth – which refers to the maximum data transfer rate of an internet connection or network – is being used constantly. Depending on the quality of videos being streamed, lots of bandwidth can be required.

Watching television shows or movies online eats up about one gigabyte of data per hour for Standard Definition (SD) videos and about three gigabytes per hour for High Definition (HD) videos. Downloading and live streaming eats up about the same amount of data. And because just about everything on the internet today is HD quality, it’s no surprise that video content is usually the guiltiest abuser of your network’s bandwidth.

What are the effects of employee streaming on your network?

Streaming not only causes a decline in your employees’ productivity, but it also hampers the performance of your network and business applications. Here are two additional compelling reasons why you should limit or block streaming in the office:

1. Slow Network

If multiple employees are streaming video content using smartphones and PCs connected to the company’s network, it consumes too much bandwidth at once, which could slow down the network. This causes your business applications, such as email and antivirus, to run slowly, and files take a very long time to open. These problems can prevent a critical business from getting done immediately.

2. Security Vulnerability

Streaming also puts your network’s security at risk because your employees could accidentally download malware from illegitimate streaming websites. While these sites are free to use, they often have malware-ridden ads or require software updates (which include the malware) to be downloaded and installed before the video stream will play. Once the malware is downloaded, it either installs “bot” software to control your computers, looks for data on your network or just causes disruption.

What options do business owners have to control or limit personal streaming?

When it comes to internet usage in the office, you don’t want to be overly restrictive. However, you may need to exercise some level of control over your employees’ activities. Here are some tips that can help you find a balance that suits your company’s needs.

1. Create a clear employee streaming policy

Instead of employing the web-limiting software, it might better suit your company and staff to have a clear employee streaming policy in place that prevents the use of streaming websites during work hours. However, this method only works if you immediately punish those ignoring it. If you impose a clear employee streaming policy and don’t discipline those breaking the rule, you may as well throw that policy away and forget about having any control whatsoever.

Along with having clear and acceptable policies, you have to offer some flexibility to keep employees’ morale. During the holiday season, for instance, you can allow them to access online shopping sites. During March Madness, you can stream the games on one computer in the conference room and provide snacks for employees. If you’re not willing to bend on your policies, your company’s attrition rate will surely increase during certain times of the year.

2. Restrict specific websites

If your company’s streaming policy doesn’t work, then it may be necessary to take a more direct method of usage control. You can work with your internet service provider or network vendor to install a network-monitoring solution that enables you to restrict bandwidth-hogging websites and prioritize VoIP, real-time communications, and other important business applications.

Users can stream over their own mobile data

You can also let your employees use their own mobile data, but make sure it doesn’t interfere with their actual work. Studies have shown that employees waste one to two hours per day surfing the web. Whether employees are viewing panda videos or tournament buzzer-beaters, wasted time can hurt your company’s bottom line – lost time means lost money.

If you believe employee streaming is having an effect on the performance of your network, we can help you review your options.  Contact one of our network engineers today.