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Could the Olympics Become a Network Danger?

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The Olympics are coming. In the same way that the city of London is building new roads to handle increased traffic, companies must ready their networks to support the increased flow of applications.

The story is simple: during major global events, traffic flows across networks increase dramatically. Employees will look at videos, or direct broadcasting, or even just news, while working in the office. This takes up valuable broadband. It means more important applications, like a sales system or email, could get 'stuck in a traffic jam'.

The Olympics is a major global event. It threatens to stress UK networks like never before. BT, the official communications sponsor of the Games, announced in 2009 that the Olympics are 'the most complex logistical peacetime challenge [they've] had to face'. Every second BT expects 6GB of information to travel across their Olympic-designated networks, equivalent to 6,000 novels, or the entire contents of Wikipedia every five seconds. In preparation, BT is investing 640,000 man hours into the Olympics project. The O2 also is investing £50 million to increase its reliability around Olympic sites by deploying new temporary antenna.

It's no surprise BT is concerned about the impact of the Olympics on networks. Consider a related international event: the 2011 World Cup. During the World Cup, mobile bandwidth data usage increased by 24%. Web browsing traffic increased by 35% during match time. YouTube traffic grew by 32% on post-match mornings, while lunchtime matches showed the largest bandwidth increase with 31%. Video streaming increased by 11%. Enterprise networks faced unprecedented traffic flows.

Now let's go back to the office. During an average week, 56% of UK office-based employees watch online video while at work. Roughly 66% of UK employees indicated they watch more than one hour of online video per week from the office. A large portion of the Olympics will occur during business hours; employees will go online to track their favourite events. So take the traffic stats mentioned above, and expand them to - quite literally - Olympic sized proportions.

The failure of business critical applications can really cost an organisation. For instance, a high-volume online store bringing in £25,000 per hour could crash due to a single network failure. If the outage lasts several hours, the monetary impact can be quite significant. IDC recently estimated the cost of an 11-hour IT outage at around £600,000.

There are two solutions: companies can purchase more bandwidth before the Olympics, but this is costly and still doesn't provide control of what's happening on their networks; or companies can use WAN governance tools to monitor and regulate the flow of applications across their networks. This means companies can prioritise business critical applications, ensuring the success of their operations.

These tools act like police officers on a road. They can regulate and direct applications (in this instance, cars) into certain queues. This means the YouTube car could be delayed. The email car could move ahead. All this could happen along the already existing network/road.

In brief, the Olympics are coming. Companies must prepare their networks now.

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