Today, it is more and more difficult to distinguish the truly recreational from the business-relevant applications. These five applications and content sites, however, are widely accessed by employees at work and consistently consume valuable WAN and Internet bandwidth. 

1. 2012 London Olympics

For 17 days beginning July 27, regional broadcasters worldwide will stream live coverage of the Olympics over the Internet. Countless highlights will also be available on-demand. On average, each video stream requires 500 Kbps but can scale up to 1.5 Mbps per user for HD video. The result: the 2012 Olympics will set world records for WAN and Internet bandwidth consumption, and many corporate networks and applications will be the losers.

2. YouTube

Today, over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube, and 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute. This is a worldwide phenomenon with 70% of traffic to YouTube coming from outside the United States. With more than 10 percent of global views coming from 350 million mobile devices, bandwidth demands are only escalating. Further compounding the bandwidth problem is the move to HD. This new high-quality video option experience consumes 1 .5Mbps per video – 100 percent of a T1 connection. For businesses, the network impact is undeniable.

3. Apple

Apple has sold 316 million iOS devices in the last four years – twice the number of Macs that have been sold. Ever. The supporting ecosystem of OS updates, content downloads (movies, TV, podcasts apps), content uploads (pictures, videos), iCloud and the App Store have created the fastest growing component of network traffic over the last two years. Consider: iOS version 5 was an 800MB update; an HD movie averages 3GB; each device comes with 5GB of free storage on iCloud. With employees increasingly bringing their own mobile devices to the workplace, that data and content is on YOUR network.

4. Social networking

The combination of both uploads (user to the site) and downloads (viewing content) mean social networking has a dual impact. Every second more than 3,000 pictures are uploaded to Facebook, consuming over 5 Gbps of bandwidth. And that doesn’t include video uploads. Viewing pictures and watching videos from applications like Socialcam has the same impact as YouTube. This social networking “double threat” is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.

5. National and supernational broadcasters

Television broadcasters are making increasing amounts of live and on-demand video available on the web through browsers, specialized players and mobile applications. BBC’s specialized client software serves an average of 160 million requests per month. Hulu, the U.S. portal for content from multiple networks, boasts 457 million views for the year ended April 2012.

On uncontrolled enterprise networks, Blue Coat estimates that 30-60% of bandwidth is consumed by recreational use of these applications. As a result the performance of mission critical enterprise applications drops, IT trouble tickets increase and employee productivity plummets.

Mitigating the impact of this traffic requires three simple steps:

  • Gain visibility: Make sure you have a real-time view of the applications and web content on your network to accurately identify and measure bandwidth utilization
  • Establish control: Create simple QoS policies that limit these big bandwidth spenders to 10 percent or less of network capacity, enabling bursts when bandwidth is not needed by higher priority business applications
  • Optimize traffic: Caching on-demand video and stream-splitting live videos reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed by multiple employees watching the same movie.

Network disruptions are de rigueur for businesses today. However, recreational applications are one disruption that can be controlled.