Regardless of the effect on employee productivity, streaming video stresses a corporate network a hundred times more than does e-mail or Web surfing alone. Streaming video can cause severe problems ranging from slow access to outsourced application services and enterprise e-mail to complete network failure. Bandwidth-intensive applications such as video conferencing and Webinars can have similarly detrimental effects on an organization’s network.
To prevent these network bandwidth problems, there are four specific practices IT can adopt to better prepare and protect their organization:
Practice No. 1: Clearly delineate appropriate workplace Internet usage standards
Enterprises must have policies in place that both outline and even prohibit certain ways staff can utilize the Internet at work. These policies should be readily available for all employees to reference, and they must agree to abide by the guidelines before being allowed on the network. These guidelines should be as clear as possible and include such regulations as:
1. Information technologies are to be used solely for business purposes
2. Employees should not assume that any computer equipment or technologies such as e-mail and data are confidential or private
3. Designated representatives maintain the right to access computer systems and review any information
4. Anyone found in violation of the policy may be subject to disciplinary action-up to and including termination of employment
Practice No. 2: Establish regular communication channels with staff
Education about how corporate network usage can affect an organization is key to any successful Internet policy. Enterprise Internet resources are communal, and employees need to understand that their actions online will affect their colleagues’ access to the network-and possibly their customers’ experience as well.
To ensure that Internet policies are understood, clear communication practices are vital. Managers and IT need to have regular meeting times in which all employees gather together and the appropriate usage of workplace PCs is outlined. Management should openly discuss what employees should and should not be doing online, as well as the appropriate use of other company technologies. These meetings can also be used as a time to reinforce the Internet policy in place and discuss any changes or revisions. This is a good time to go over in detail some of the more crucial aspects of the policy and ensure that any questions are addressed.
Another critical communication channel is between IT and department directors. IT should work directly with the directors of various departments and help them to understand the online activity of their department. The benefit of this communication model is that directors get to better understand how their team is working during the day and IT learns the specific needs of a given department. Ultimately, this helps both groups estimate and allocate bandwidth by department or location, based on need.
Determine Which Employees Need the Internet for Legitimate Work Purposes
Practice No. 3: Determine which employees need the Internet for legitimate work purposes
Being able to allocate bandwidth by person and department is a critical capability for IT staff attempting to work within the limitations of an individual enterprise network. Having an understanding of which employees require more bandwidth to do their job and which may need less is beneficial for several reasons, one of which is in accounting for network resources.
For example, if the bandwidth consumed by the billing department is negatively impacting the marketing departments’ online access, there is a problem. The marketing department is much more likely to be legitimately streaming content and downloading video (both very bandwidth-intensive) than the billing department, which likely doesn’t use bandwidth-intensive systems for work purposes.
Examining Internet use by employee and department (as opposed to the company at large) allows managers to evaluate resources using context and role-based usage information. There will always be employees and departments with different bandwidth needs than other staff members and areas of the business. It is essential to both an organization’s productivity and network health to properly identify and plan for those needs.
Practice No. 4: Invest in tools for your network that manage and document Internet Web usage
Once you have outlined a clear acceptable-use policy and understand the bandwidth needs of each department, the next step is to manage usage by utilizing tools to allocate bandwidth tiers by person, department and even Web site. Those departments that have been found to require more bandwidth than others can be given priority access to the available bandwidth. Departments and employees that do not require priority bandwidth can be placed in lower bandwidth tiers so that their network activities do not impact organizational productivity.
Tools available today also enable the whitelisting and blacklisting of Web sites so that mission-critical services get priority bandwidth and Web sites that are not work-related get limited or no bandwidth. For example, Web sites such as salesforce.com or other Web-based applications are whitelisted, while Web sites such as youtube.com may get blacklisted and receive no bandwidth. Managing bandwidth by Web site ensures that available bandwidth is used for work-related Web sites above all others.
IT, human resources and department managers can leverage these capabilities to easily enforce corporate Internet use policies. Several tools even provide alerting and reporting capabilities so that infractions can be identified quickly and documentation of these instances is automated.
He serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation. Ermis helped launch and is on the Board of the Chesapeake Innovation Center (CIC), a technology incubator focused on Homeland Defense. Ermis is also on the Board of BankAnnapolis, and serves on the Advisory Board for Nokia Innovent. Ermis has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland, and is a Maryland-registered Professional Engineer. He can be reached at [email protected].