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Mobile traffic of Olympic proportions: Is your enterprise prepared?

Mobile traffic is expected to surge across enterprise networks due to upcoming Olympic games. Enterprises must monitor the network.

More than four billion people are expected to tune in to the 2012 Olympic Games. With two weeks' worth of competition taking place in London next month, employees will inevitably use the corporate network to check scores and stream Olympic events during work hours on their mobile devices. Enterprises must heed the call and decide if and how Olympic mobile traffic will be handled across the enterprise network.

Enterprises are no stranger to sporting or news events that garner worldwide audiences affecting their networks, but the proliferation of mobile devices and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) in the enterprise add another layer of bandwidth concerns for IT. With a time difference of at least five hours between the London Olympics and the U.S., users across the enterprise network will attempt to access live streaming Olympic video from their smartphones and tablets. 

Many coverage options are available to remote viewers of the Games -- including viewing apps for mobile devices -- so enterprises must decide how much recreational video traffic is acceptable and prepare their networks now for the expected surge of mobile traffic, said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group. "Come July, the fastest people in the world will be slowing down the WAN."

Olympic mobile traffic: Cache, or cut it off?

Streaming online video services and the proliferation of social media during popular news and sporting events pose a concern for the enterprise. Many IT organizations traditionally block all non-business websites in order to decrease the chance of business impact.

This year's Olympic Games will produce a surge in mobile viewers that has not been evident in previous years, according to Tim Moynihan, vice president of product marketing for Empirix, a Web services testing and monitoring provider. Enterprises should already be putting network monitoring tools in place to assure that the quality of business applications aren't adversely affected, he said.  

Testing the network is the first step. With nearly every user on the enterprise network having at least one mobile device, enterprises must determine how prepared it is to handle a surge of mobile activity.

"The enterprise needs to be able to address basic business functions during any surge of network activity, and testing the environment before the traffic happens is mission-critical," Moynihan said. 

Rather than simply blocking sites that will offer streaming video of the Olympics -- like YouTube -- enterprises can handle increased mobile traffic across their network by turning to caching technologies or by multicasting the same stream to all of its locations.

"If each user accessed the same video feed, it could slow down the network tremendously, because of multiple requests being pulled in," Laliberte said. "If enterprises decide to allow this traffic, a good option would be to store the video stream in one location so multiple streams running across the WAN don't unnecessarily eat up bandwidth."

More on mobile traffic:

Smartphone app offloads mobile traffic to Wi-Fi

Addressing rising mobile and wireless network bandwidth demand

The future of mobile traffic is now

Olympic mobile traffic surge can't derail business

Cisco, which has partnered with BT and Atos to build the network for the London Olympic Games, has released a series of webinars addressing the upcoming challenges to the enterprise network due to Olympic traffic.

Providing limited or sanctioned viewing opportunities around events like the Olympics will help to mitigate network traffic concerns for the enterprise, said Ian Foddering, chief technology officer of Cisco's UK division.

Whether the enterprise chooses to allow users to watch the Games on televisions in break rooms, or allows limited mobile traffic across the network, "it's an opportunity for enterprises and [employees] to have some fun -- while still promoting Quality of Service [QoS]," he said.

Enterprises can open up certain periods of time in which to view video streams, or offer access to low-quality video streams to satisfy the consumer behavior of its users, while minimizing business impact, said John Pironti, president of consultancy IP Architects LLC.

"It really comes down to what kind of work and personal balance that the enterprise wants to strike," Laliberte said, noting that, despite the Olympics, enterprises should strive for business as usual. 

Network monitoring will be crucial for enterprises that decide to allow the influx of mobile traffic that a large-scale event can bring. "Network administrators should watch the network closely," Pironti said. With consistent monitoring, IT will know quickly whether the traffic surge is affecting the business.

The enterprise can then make the decision to filter the mobile traffic differently by ranking business-use as a priority, or by blocking certain traffic and forcing users off the corporate network and onto their carrier's cellular network, he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.

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