Recent studies demonstrate that upwards of 25% of Internet bandwidth in an office are consumed by employees misusing the internet. According to Gartner, the average growth of business email volume is 30% annually, with the average size of the email content growing in parallel. Add to this the growth of Web misuse from streaming media, downloads, file sharing, social networking, and spam, and it becomes pretty clear that the mismanaged cost to business of non-work-related Internet use is already bad and getting worse.
There are plenty of examples, including employees wasting more than two hours a day on recreational computer activities (according to a survey fielded by AOL & Salary.com) and that, according to an IDC report, “30% – 40% of Internet use in the workplace is unrelated to business.”
Studies and surveys such as these typically focus only on lost productivity — and there’s no doubt that’s bad enough. But they rarely discuss the significant hidden financial impact of bandwidth wastage from these activities.
We have started to take bandwidth for granted as it’s become cheaper and more readily available. However, as the adoption of cloud-based solutions (like customer relations management tools) increases, it will be critical to ensure the user has a good experience with Web-based applications, with the speed of their ability to work unimpeded by bandwidth grabbers and slowdowns.
Social networkers are as much to blame as habitual gamers, sports fans, or file sharers: After ‘posting messages,’ the next two most common social network activities are uploading and downloading music and video content. Overall top bandwidth hogs reported include employees sending emails with large attachments, recreational Web surfing, listening to the radio over the Internet, music downloads, and streaming video over the Internet.
One rogue user in an office streaming large files can impact everyone else trying to work. Clearly, there’s a need to manage individual users’ bandwidth usage.
Perhaps by taking simple steps, such as giving users bandwidth allowances, admins can control the abuse. By blocking streaming media, allowing users to go to sites but without the ability to see streamed videos, bandwidth usage can be reduced dramatically. It may also be possible to block the downloads of certain file types or MIME types, such as Flash Video .flv files, unless the user has a legitimate business reason to view them. And blocking some MIME types can even help prevent users being bamboozled into infecting their own computers by malicious advertisements.
By using Software-as-a-Service Web filtering, other unique advantages can now be brought into play. For example, bandwidth compression of all traffic from the cloud to your users browsers, and even the ability to block Web ads at the gateway, may conserve this precious resource. Over time, simple measures such as these can conserve a large amount of bandwidth.
While we all appreciate the privilege of using the Internet for personal purposes at work, a small number of rotten apples on your network can truly ruin the whole bunch. Draconian measures are sure to hurt morale, so it’s a bit of a balancing act to find the right mix of measures that work. As the growth of cloud applications and hosted services continues, it will be more important than ever to keep these bandwidth hogs in check, lest the rest of the company suffer.