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IT Organizations Go for the Gold Despite Olympics-Induced Network Strain
Article Written by Mike Sargent, SVP and GM at Riverbed

The Olympics unite the world for a couple of weeks every two years. Watching the world's best and brightest, who have worked their entire lives for a few moments of public competition, has us all hooked. And you can't really blame your average employee for not being able to turn off the interest while at work. The gallantry, the victory, even the crushing defeat, is irresistible. So with so many employees unavoidably tapping into the games in one way or another while at work, have global IT organizations put in the rigorous training and strength to come off victorious during these games, or will networks crumble under the pressure of added streaming?

This year's Rio Olympics will amount to 6,755 hours of programming, with a whopping 2/3 of it being streamed online via websites and mobile apps. The Rio 2016 organizing committee has said that Olympic viewers with access to the internet are expected to use their devices for extra information and analysis of the events they watch on TV. 

Mobile devices were expected to account for 80 percent of the Olympics viewing, as many use devices alongside TV to connect with social media, bloggers, apps and commentary. The Rio 2016 Official App had been downloaded more than 800,000 times before the games started. 

Is IT ready?

Recent research took a look.  "The Riverbed Global Network Strain 2016 Snapshot Survey," commissioned by Riverbed this July, is an online survey by Wakefield Research of more than 400 IT professionals in the US, UK, Australia and Brazil. Setting out to discover how prepared IT organizations were for the extra strain that Olympics viewing will have on their networks, Riverbed asked IT organizations about their plans to maintain performance during the 16 days of this Olympiad.

IT is Aware...

The survey uncovered that at the very least, most respondents are keenly aware of how the Olympics might affect their networks. Eight-five percent reported that they were "likely" to more closely monitor the performance of their applications and networks, including Wi-Fi. In fact, just two percent reported being very unlikely to monitor their networks differently during the Olympics.

Of course, in the age of mobility, desktop and laptop aren't the only ways to stream. While respondents reported that about half of Olympics viewing will be done this way, a large chunk (34 percent) was expected to come from smartphones and 18 percent on tablets and other non-smartphone devices. Most employees are likely to stream from a variety of places and devices.

...But Not Completely Prepared

To explore how past events have impacted network performance, the survey asked about popular events previously causing network issues. Not surprisingly, 69 percent said that they have seen it happen before. Thirty percent said it has happened more than once. UK companies have seen it most (79 percent), followed by Australia (68 percent), the US (66 percent) and Brazil (65 percent).

Given this past experience, it was a bit surprising to learn that more than half of the study's respondents didn't have a firm understanding of how they would protect apps and availability during the Olympics.

But, interestingly, Brazil is the most prepared of all the countries surveyed, with 55 percent of IT professionals feeling completely confident that they can maintain performance during the Olympics. For how much Brazil has been scrutinized for its preparedness for the games, on the enterprise IT side, it is the most prepared of all! In the US, 53 percent of IT professionals felt confident, followed by 38 percent in the UK and 25 percent in Australia.

Taking Steps for Success

The study asked respondents what they planned to do to protect the network amid increased streaming. Most commonly, IT professionals plan to restrict employees from streaming Olympics content from the network (70 percent), with 24 percent saying that they will definitely do this, and 46 percent saying that they probably will.

This leaves a full 30 percent of IT organizations NOT planning to restrict access. In fact, 37 percent of respondents in Brazil and 34 percent in the US will not restrict Olympics content, contrasted with 27 percent in Australia and 20 percent in the UK.

Brazil and the US, the countries least likely to limit access to Olympics content, are also the countries where IT pros are most confident in their abilities to protect their networks during this time.

Geographical breakdowns aside, company size also played a role. Larger companies were less likely than smaller companies to say that they would limit access. While 61 percent of companies with more than 500 employees said they planned to implement restrictions, a larger 78 percent of smaller companies planned to.

Protect the Network

Limiting access is the obvious solution but likely unpopular with the staff.  The only real way to protect the network during events like the Olympics is to closely monitor your networks with the right tools. There is no replacement for real-time, end-to-end monitoring over all applications on the network, which lets IT see and remedy issues as they arise.

In addition, IT needs to work together during times where special events could negatively impact the network. By coordinating IT team's company-wide, priorities can be clarified and strengthened. IT administrators should also optimize traffic, while prioritizing bandwidth to ensure that business-critical applications stay reliable.

Another vital practice is to distinguish between company assets and employee-owned devices (BYOD). Being aware of employee-owned devices is vital, and though the company may allow them, it may be wise to limit free access to the network on devices not owned by the company.

Chances are, employees won't be able to pull themselves away from the excitement of the Olympics, just because they're at work. While it may be impossible to avoid network strain this summer, implementing strategies to strengthen the network and align priorities can help your organization stay on track as much as possible.

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About the Author

Mike Sargent 

Mike Sargent is Senior Vice President and General Manager at Riverbed Technology. Sargent is an experienced global technology executive with a history of transforming and optimizing business innovation, performance and growth. In his current role, Sargent leads the Riverbed SteelCentral business unit which offers solutions that bring together end-user monitoring, network performance management, and application performance management to provide end-to-end application performance visibility for today's hybrid IT architectures. Sargent has held leadership positions with CA Technologies, Oliver Wyman and Bain & Company.

Published Thursday, August 18, 2016 7:20 AM by David Marshall
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