Surviving Application Performance Madness
April 09, 2015

Steve Riley

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Business networks today seemingly have more intense loads placed on them every day. And nowhere is this more evident this time of year than the annual March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. What was once a small-screen, low-resolution video is now available in full HD, potentially taxing network resources. With employees from all over the organization wanting to stream the games online, organizations run the risk of their business-critical applications suffering in performance.

To determine corporate attitudes toward the situation, Riverbed surveyed employees about who in their organization will be streaming games and what their policies are toward the situation. The survey uncovered that employees of different age and seniority level had varied attitudes about this use of company resources.

Employee Streaming Habits

The survey identified employees as millennials, generation-x, or baby boomers. And it turns out that the younger the employee, the more entitled they feel about streaming March Madness games. One-third of millennials feel they should be allowed to watch the games, compared to only 17 percent of baby boomers. Millennials are also more likely to believe that a larger number of employees overall will watch the games. As far as who actually plans to watch the games, 43 percent of millennials say they will, compared to only 18 percent of baby boomers.

The survey respondents reported that 44 percent of non-management employees are likely to stream games, compared with just 34 percent of middle management and 30 percent of senior management. This is confirmed by IT staff, which also believe that the lower-level staff have a greater intention of streaming games. One key difference, however, is that 53 percent of IT employees believe that the CEO will stream games. Also, IT employees admit they are more likely than other employees to stream games.

Corporate Streaming Policies

One thing standing between employees and their basketball games is corporate policies. Employees of different ages differ in their opinions here as well. A full 69 percent of baby boomers believe that corporate policy prohibits streaming, compared to only 48 percent of millennials. The truth, however, is that only 37 percent of businesses actually have a policy against streaming the games. Nearly as many (29 percent) allow streaming at least on a limited basis. In addition, 27 percent have no formal policy in place forbidding streaming.

The Impact of Streaming on the Network

With bandwidth being tied up in video streaming during the March Madness tournament, it’s no surprise that the network suffers the consequences. Employees have the impression that the most impacted resource is slower apps. And IT agrees with this, with 47 percent noting that it’s a big deal. Their perception is slightly different in other areas, however. Employees feel that video streaming can cause network freezes and more sluggish customer-facing assets. IT, however, reports that in addition to the customer-facing asset challenges there are problems with the quality of service for its VoIP services, which is a significant impediment to business operations. In general, IT found these problems to be more serious than other employees did.

Mitigating March Madness Challenges

When it comes to lessening the impact of video streaming on application performance, there are different approaches a business can take. One idea is setting up televisions in the break room, with the hope that actively providing a way to watch games will reduce the incidents of individual employees streaming games. A second approach is to meter Internet traffic to reduce the performance problems with the network. Another is to monitor network usage in order to identify users who are using the most bandwidth. Finally, organizations can elect to block access to the games.

Unsurprisingly, there are gaps between what employees feel are appropriate measures and what IT feels is best. A low percentage of employees – 19 percent and 21 percent, respectively – object to setting up a TV or metering traffic. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) believe it’s inappropriate for IT to monitor traffic, and even more (35 percent) think it’s wrong to completely block access. Most IT employees agree that setting up a TV or metering traffic would be appropriate; in fact, only 7 percent opposed metering. But a much lower number of IT workers object to monitoring traffic (13 percent) or blocking streaming altogether (21 percent).

While March Madness is an exciting time for the sports enthusiasts in the office, it’s not always such a happy time for IT. In order to accommodate an appropriate level of employee enjoyment without negatively impacting business functions, each organization must decide how to manage its application performance. But it’s not just during March – these lessons apply any time of year, during times when employee activity and other demands place a heavy load on network resources. Intelligent management of application performance is a year-round need for businesses, and preparing now will ensure uninterrupted resources every day.

Steve Riley is Deputy CTO at Riverbed Technology.

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