By Florian Malecki, Dell SonicWALL EMEA Senior Product Marketing Manager
At 9pm on Friday July 27th 2012, an estimated one billion people watched the opening ceremony* of the 30th Olympic Games in London. As the games proceed, people are watching athletes from 205 nations take part in over 300 events. A perfect time for people to log on to the corporate network and watch the ceremony via streaming video.
TV and cable networks around the world are promising more coverage and accessibility than ever. For die hard fans, this represents about 5,000 hours of broadcast. Unlike previous Olympics, where most people had to be tethered to their PCs to watch streaming video or hear live coverage of events, this is likely to be the year that smart phones, tablets and devices become the preferred method of keeping track of favorite sports and athletes. A more sobering fact for small businesses is that a significant portion of ‘Olympic watching’ will take place during office hours and using the bandwidth of the corporate network rather than one’s own wireless data plan.
But, it is not just streaming video that small businesses need to contend with on their networks. During the last Olympics in 2008, there were some 100 million users of Facebook. Now that number is close to one billion. Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt has over 7 million fans on his Facebook page, while Michael Phelps (probably the only time he will find himself in 2nd place) is runner up to Usain with some 4 million fans. And then there is twitter, which has grown from 6m to 140million users in the years since the Beijing Olympics. While a 140 character message is nothing in terms of data on a corporate network, times it by several thousand and add a bitly link to an inspiring, cool or funny YouTube video and the seemingly harmless tweet suddenly becomes a nightmare for the managers of the corporate network.
While the Olympic Games is one of the world’s biggest and best pageants, and great entertainment for all, it also represents a productivity challenge of Olympic proportions to small businesses unprepared for the onslaught to their networks
During the Olympics, it is a huge challenge for SMBs to efficiently deliver business-critical corporate solutions while contending with employee’s use of ‘wasteful’ applications that give them access to the Olympics. Critical applications need bandwidth prioritisation while video, multimedia and social media applications need to be bandwidth-throttled or completely blocked. It used to be that firewalls were installed to protect from viruses and malware to keep the corporate network safe and secure. However, modern next-generation firewalls are much more advanced and able to protect the productivity of the network, too. The corporate network represents the central nervous system for many businesses. If it goes down, all business literally stops. Similarly, if it slows down because its bandwidth is being sucked dry from video, live streaming of TV, or Facebook and Twitter usage, so too business slows down.
Next-generation firewalls include technology such as application intelligence and control functionality which literally does what it says; it allows a company to determine what applications can be used on the network by which employees. This seemingly simple benefit has the potential to keep small businesses moving during the Olympics by protecting the corporate network, not only from outside malicious attacks from cyber scams and threats, but also from a very different internal threat: employees using the bandwidth of the corporate network to watch, share, listen to the Olympics.
The technology behind application intelligence and control is massively complex and very few IT security companies are able to deliver it. Not only does it allow a business to pre-determine who gets access to what applications on a corporate network, it can also determine if and when this access is throttled or completely switched on and off. And, even if an employee is given access to streaming video applications during the Olympics, this next generation technology can ensure the authenticity of the content coming into the network as well.
Undoubtedly, between July 27th and August 12th 2012, hundreds and thousands of small businesses around the world are going to say “What’s happening on my network? Who’s wasting my bandwidth? Why is my network so slow?” Chances are they do not have next-generation firewalls and application intelligence and control.