A productivity problem of Olympic proportions

Florian Malecki, senior product marketing manager EMEA at DELL SonicWALL

As athletes from 205 nations participate in over 300 events during the Olympic Games in London, die-hard fans will be glued to their computer screens, secretly using their company’s bandwidth; an issue that will soon become a menace to corporate network managers around the Middle East as 30-60 percent of organisations’ bandwidth will be consumed by Olympic videos alone.

Undoubtedly, between July 27th and August 12th 2012, hundreds and thousands of businesses around the world are going to say: “What’s happening on my network? Who’s wasting my bandwidth? Why is my network so slow?” While the Olympic Games is one of the world’s biggest and best pageants, it also represents a productivity challenge of massive proportions to businesses unprepared for the onslaught to their networks.

For instance streaming video will become a nightmare for companies to contend with even though fans will see it as nothing more than getting into the spirit of Olympian comradely. But it’s not just streaming video that business needs to contend with on their networks. During the last Olympics in 2008, there were some 100 million users of Facebook. Now that number is close to one billion.

There will be literally tens of thousands of Facebook fan pages popping up and being accessed from around the world – many from corporate networks. Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt has over 7million fans on his Facebook page, while Michael Phelps (probably the only time he will find himself in 2nd place) is runner up to Bolt with some 4 million fans.

And then there is Twitter, which has grown from 6m to 140million users in the years since the Beijing Olympics. While a 140 character message is nothing in terms of data on a corporate network, times it by several thousand and add a link to an inspiring or funny YouTube video and the seemingly harmless tweet suddenly becomes problematic for the managers of the corporate network.

During the Olympics, it is going to be a huge challenge for network administrators to efficiently deliver business-critical corporate solutions while contending with employees’ use of ‘wasteful’ applications that give them access to the Olympics. Critical applications need bandwidth prioritisation while video, multimedia and social media applications need to be bandwidth-throttled or completely blocked.

At one stage firewalls were installed to protect from viruses and malware to keep the corporate network safe and secure. However, modern next-generation firewalls are much more advanced and able to protect the productivity of the network, too. The corporate network represents the central nervous system for many businesses. If it goes down, all business literally stops. Similarly, if it slows down because its bandwidth is being choked by video, live streaming of TV, or Facebook and Twitter usage, so too business slows down.

Next-generation firewalls include technology such as application intelligence and control functionality which allows a company to determine what applications can be used on the network and which employees can use it. This simple benefit has the potential to keep businesses moving during the Olympics by protecting the corporate network, not only from outside malicious attacks from cyber scams and threats, but also from a very different internal threat; employees using the bandwidth of the corporate network to watch, share, listen to the Olympics. It also ensures the authenticity of the content coming into the network by inspecting each packet of data as it comes in via deep packet inspection.

Next-generation firewalls use an innovation known as ‘deep packet inspection’ to scan the entire packet payload of everything coming in and out of the network to provide advanced intrusion prevention, anti-malware, content filtering and anti-spam, providing insight into the applications and a critical network and business management benefit.

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