Watching YouTube on Your IPad is Killing Your IT People

Last Updated Jul 11, 2011 2:49 PM EDT

The majority of Americans believe that they should be able to watch video at work on their smart phones, iPads and other mobile devices. Only 9% think they have an accurate idea of what that does to their network. Your IT people know exactly how much strain it creates, and it's not pretty.

A just-released survey from Qumu, a business video network platform, and Harris Interactive shows just how much video we watch at work, and why it's a problem. The survey found that a majority of online Americans (64%) are watching online videos, Men are significantly more likely than women to say they have ever watched online video while at work (53% vs. 34%, respectively). But while 17% of all online Americans have watched online company videos at their work, that's not all they're watching. The most popular choice was news clips (25%) followed by viral videos (15%), videos posted on social networking sites (12%), sports events/sports clips (11%), television shows (9%), full length feature films (4%) and other online videos (3%). A small group of people (3%) admitted to even watching pornographic videos while on the job.

But workplace video is not just cute kittens and wannabe pop stars. It's also web conferencing, training videos, customer demos and much, much more. It's a constantly evolving landscape and the poor souls tasked with administering it are facing problems exponentially bigger than anyone imagined even a year or two ago.

The problem is not just what we watch but how we watch it. As more people use iPads and smartphones, the temptation to view video is overwhelming. In fact, iPads are becoming huge Wi-Fi data hogs, consuming 400% more WiFi data on a monthly basis than the average iPhone, iPod or Android device, according to a new report.
Imagine 50 people watching a video on their iPads at work. Each is pulling a 1 Mbps stream from the internet over the corporate network. This would generate 50 Mbps of traffic. Your average high capacity WiFi network has 54 Mbps of capacity so this virtually wipes out the full capacity available. And it's not only the WiFi network â€" the overall WAN is impacted. All of a sudden, overall internet access becomes sluggish or crashes for the whole office. It impacts productivity in a big way.

According to Qumu CEO Ray Hood, the problem isn't going to get any better any time soon. "Most companies have "thrown in the towel" on this one" he says. "Employees aren't just going to stop watching video. However, there are a multitude of options for company management so that the proper systems and policies are in place to make sure the network will survive and employees can take full advantage of all the great opportunities video presents".

As an example, he talks about the recent Royal Wedding. "That took place in the wee hours of the morning for most Americans so everyone was eager to watch the archive posted to YouTube the minute they got to work. That morning, everywhere you looked employees were sneaking a peak at the wedding footage--..and corporate networks were feeling it!".

There is hope for peace at work. Products like Qumu help network administrators with URL encryption, logins and private codes for varying levels of security. They help monitor the network and report during live video webcast events so connections are visible and repairable, and they have routing options for pushing video to multiple content distribution networks simultaneously. In other words, they can see what's happening and respond quickly. Additionally, streaming technology is getting better all the time, allowing more information to travel in smaller, faster packets.

So, while companies balance the demands of video consumers with those trying to keep the company running, spare a thought for the poor network folks. They're not asking you to limit video because they're killjoys, they're trying to ensure everyone can get their work done.

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