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|ITKnowledge Exchange member "TheVyrys" asked:
I have some users who listen to online radio stations. I asked them to stop because I assume it uses up a fair amount of bandwidth. Is that correct? Also, other than purchasing and installing software, is there a way to block Internet music access? I can't remove their Internet access, because it is a vital part of their job functions.
ITKE member petroleumman advised:
Online radio stations really are very lightweight and will not use much bandwidth on a network. The only way you'd have an issue is if your bandwidth situation is critical to begin with. We have many users in our environment who like to listen to music and allowing them access gives them a small freedom which can go a long way to having a happier office.
If you're set on stopping it, however, use your firewall or ISA server to block ports that the media sources are using or create a filter to prevent certain file types from getting in. Halting traffic at the gateway is a more efficient approach than filtering from the inside.
ITKE member Almac advised:
In general, listening to music is not a big issue. However, I've had instances where listeners were used as "re-broadcasters" for other listeners. An audit of our bandwidth usage showed that one instance of "re-broadcasting" used half of the bandwidth on my T1.
What is your company's policy regarding listening to music? It is hard to enforce something if it isn't in writing. Our usage policy specifically prohibits listening to online music in the workplace. I used Group Policy to remove music players and I audit weekly to ensure it stays removed. We now play background music in the building, and users recommend the stations we play. The result has been no online music listening.
ITKE member astronomer advised:
We had problems with downloads and streaming music in particular. Our three T1s were saturated to the point that our business software became unusable. Since the current streaming protocols use port 80 to get through firewalls, we were forced to use two strategies. We blocked some sites and forced users to use a squid proxy, which limits individual download speeds so the Internet pipe isn't saturated. We also considered using the new class of traffic shapers that inspect the traffic up to Layer 7. This allows you to control traffic by application. We didn't buy the product because of the price, but it is worth looking at.
ITKE member bigshybear advised:
Yes, streaming audio takes up bandwidth -- 56 kilobytes per second (KBps) to 128 KBps per person -- and it's a constant load; it doesn't spike like normal Internet usage. If you have a T1 and six people are streaming at 128 KBps, that's half of your bandwidth. Ouch.
Be aware of the political issue of whether or not you have the authority to cut off users' Internet radio. You may have to get allies in management. Reminding them how much more bandwidth would cost always seems to work well.
ITKE member HumbleNetAdmin advised:
The greater problem is whether or not you have backing from management. If your company doesn't have a policy and/or you run into trouble blocking usage, gather information to back up your claim. Don't just tell management that you feel the usage is consuming too much bandwidth, show them. Using tools such as PRTG, you can monitor network traffic on everything -- servers, routers, firewalls -- and even end users' PCs.
I started seeing the problem of high bandwidth usage on incoming traffic that was not in keeping with the norm. After investigating, I was able to show management that users' accessing streaming audio was consuming bandwidth. The powers that be took an unexpected turn. Instead of creating an acceptable use policy and enforcing it, and/or blocking content, we installed a new T1 and routers/firewalls for an Internet connection that is strictly for inter-company use only. The users' PCs have their gateways set to the firewall on the new T1, so bandwidth is not taken away from the circuit that external customers depend on.
A different version of this tip previously appeared on SearchSecurity.com.
This was first published in March 2006