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When ‘must-see TV’ hits your network

Apr 17, 20064 mins
Data Center

When ‘must-see TV’ muscles into the workplace

What do you say we plop a TV set on the desk of every employee in your organization.

Sounds nuts, you say? . . . Already done, isn’t it?

Aren’t PCs with a broadband connection becoming more indistinguishable from a TV with each passing day? Much of college basketball’s March Madness tournament was available – live – thanks to the good folks at CBS, who were so cognizant of what that would mean for network managers that they offered advice for blocking the broadcasts. ABC just made a splash by announcing it will offer free online access to prime-time programs such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” the day after they air. . . . Can the soaps be far behind?

Here’s a pitch I saw from one Web site: “Take A Quick TV Break! Are you feeling that the day is getting too long and you’re falling asleep at your desk? Sneak in a quick energizer. Let us show you how to use your PC to catch a comedy just to brighten your day, update yourself with a quick news clip, or watch your favorite artist’s music video!”

Knowing those exclamation points would register as darts for network professionals, I turned last week to the members of my blog’s e-mail list – the Buzzblog Brigade – for their views on this PC-to-TV evolution. What follows is some of their venting:

“We’re going to see a lot more places clamping down. For starters, bandwidth has limits, and if a large portion of a workplace’s population is watching ‘Lost,’ that isn’t going to be good for network performance,” writes John Gog, network system administrator for the city of Birmingham, Ala. “But my bigger issue is the waste of time. I get very tired of hearing how people are working soooo many hours, when those same people (in many cases) are spending hours each week doing personal surfing. Having survived the NCAA tournament, which had users watching games and spending time fiddling with their brackets, the thought of them now watching primetime programming during work hours is sickening.”

And let’s not forget the audiophiles.

“We have already found ourselves having to block radio station Web sites,” writes Bill Dotson, IT manager for Crown Packaging in Chesterfield, Mo. “Users don’t realize (or even consider) the amount of bandwidth it takes to listen to streaming audio. I’m sure they’ll give equal consideration to bandwidth when watching television over the ‘Net. And since many of those ‘televised’ programs come from sites that are not blocked by our Web filters, I’m sure we’ll struggle to prevent users from bringing our network to its knees while they watch ‘Desperate Housewives’ at their desk.”

“I fully expect at some point someone will download an entire episode of some TV show and then e-mail it to one of their friends, further bogging down our network. Maybe educating users about bandwidth-intensive activities is the way to go. Then again, maybe I can teach a turtle to tango.”

Some workplaces are already in just-say-no mode.

“My company has already clamped down. No March Madness. No Internet radio,” writes Howard Stewart, RIS/PACS administrator at Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth. “They don’t mind us wasting a little time on low-bandwidth activities, but until we see some major upgrades to the network infrastructure we won’t be getting any Web TV.”

And at least one reader sees hope on the horizon.

“Sure, every PC is now a TV/storm drain for bandwidth. But with the proliferation of attack-mitigation devices and Internet-filtering appliances, our job is getting a little easier – at least on the technical side,” writes Glenn Freel, a systems administrator.

“We are currently filtering Web use through a URL-based appliance. We’re also employing a device that gives very customizable and automated reports based on top destination ports, source or destination IP addresses, machine names, users ranked by traffic, or any activity on ports known to be [peer to peer] or other problem areas.

“I try to keep on top of things, such as knowing beforehand that CBS was going with the March Madness deliveries. But with the proper precautions in place, most of my worry was whether I could resist the temptation myself.”

Want to join the Buzzblog Brigade? Just let me know at