UK SMEs are funding their employees’ lunchtime surfing habits to the tune of over £23 million per year. The figures, which are based on actual usage monitored from data centres serving more than 3,000 UK businesses, highlight that lunchtime is consistently the peak period for bandwidth usage. On average this lunchtime peak is 18% higher than any other time of the working day.
Bandwidth usage per customer has been growing over the last year as bandwidth intensive applications like Internet TV, video conferencing and VoIP are becoming common place amongst SMEs. As ISPs are increasingly moving towards capping bandwidth utilisation for high volume users and offering different levels of service at different rates, companies will be forced to take a closer look at how their bandwidth is being used in order to ensure that they are not sizing their bandwidth capacity around non business usage.
Companies may now begin enforcing Acceptable Usage Policies (AUPs) to keep their usage within capped limits, so as not to incur extra charges. This approach may mean that employers start to prioritise certain types of traffic, ensuring that the chairman’s email isn’t slowed down by an employee catching up on last night’s episode of Eastenders on iPlayer.
The move by service providers away from ‘all-you-can-eat’ pricing schemes – both in the business and consumer markets – towards charging more for high bandwidth users, will be a bitter pill for some companies to swallow. In a society where, as consumers we have embraced a viewpoint that anything Internet-oriented should be free, it will be hard to accept higher pricing for internet access. Yet the fact remains that the cost of providing next generation services requires investment to provide the infrastructure and tools to deliver them efficiently, and someone has to foot the bill.
As we see an increasing trend of SMEs in the UK moving to cloud based services, the need to manage the use of internet access will become ever more pressing. I believe that allowing employees the freedom to use the web is vital to a well motivated and productive workforce but not at any cost. Like any other resource, there will be an increasing need for businesses to control and manage bandwidth or risk jeopardising the undoubted benefits that services delivered from the internet using ‘cloud’ technology can deliver.