In the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, South African network managers would do well to join South Africa’s athletes in preparing to bring home gold by ensuring their WANs are prepared to handle the potential increased demand for bandwidth.

Failure to do so could see network efficiency as the big loser as employees use the company networks to watch their favourite Olympic events during working hours.

The result will be an enormous strain on bandwidth in a country that already suffers from expensive and limited connectivity as well as a slowing down of critical business functions. And unlike past events, fans in 2012 will be able to catch the games live via streamed video over the Internet. If network managers don’t have clear visibility as to exactly what is running on their networks, they’ll be in for an unpleasant few weeks.

So, not only will productivity be reduced because people are watching the Olympics, but it will be further hampered because those trying to do their work will suffer frustrating delays waiting for their systems to respond. It only takes a few people streaming videos to bring down a network.

The solution, according to Brandon Rochat, territory sales manager: South Africa at Exinda Networks, is not to ban videos, since there may be a valid reason to stream videos in the office. “The only real way to make sure the corporate network remains functional for normal business traffic is to manage it, not to simply ban users from watching videos and see if that helps.”

An effective network management solution will allow the business to monitor what traffic is running over its network and prioritise the business critical traffic. This will give management real-time visibility into the network to ensure business applications run smoothly, no matter what else wants to use it.

Modern management tools also enable management down to the user level. So the CEO will have unrestricted access to the Olympics, the marketing manager will be able to keep the company’s YouTube channel updated, but everyone else will find they are unable to stream videos.

“Who gets access to what naturally depends on the policies of each company,” adds Rochat. “Management could, for example, decide that staff can experience the excitement at certain times, such as during lunch hours or when a particular event is on, but not at any other time.

“With an effective network management platform in place, the business decides who owns its bandwidth, not the sports fans.”