This IT shop isn't worried about Olympics bandwidth demands

Brunswick uses policies, network appliances to protect users, IT resources

The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing are just a week away. Is your IT department ready to handle the impact on your business from employees downloading online video of the opening ceremonies or the latest gymnastic feat?

Some users are already prepared, such as Brunswick, a maker of boats and marine engines and fitness, bowling and billiards equipment. The company is using a technology that enables its 20,000 employees worldwide to view online content, including major sporting events, but also asks employees to watch bandwidth-hogging video after hours to conserve costs.

Brunswick is using devices that help conserve bandwidth by accelerating and caching online content locally so that it only has to be downloaded once and can then be viewed by all users on the network, saving bandwidth resources. The devices, Blue Coat ProxySG 810 appliances, from US-based Blue Coat Systems, allow Brunswick to let their employees view bandwidth-hogging content (it is a sports equipment maker after all) without slowing the network or raising costs.

"The NCAA Final Four is a killer for us" in terms of bandwidth demands by employees, said Cathy McClain, a divisional CIO at US-based Brunswick. "It's been a big event for us for a couple years now."

With the Olympic Games about to start August 8, Brunswick's IT systems are again ready, McClain said. "I am not worried about the Olympics."

What Brunswick does beyond using the Blue Coat appliances is simple The company tells its employees that they may watch online content using company laptops and PCs, but they should limit viewing during peak hours unless it is absolutely necessary, McClain said. Their users honor that request most of the time, she said. "They know if they really want to see it, they'll see it."

Using the Blue Coat appliances, Brunswick set up a system 20 months ago that first takes a user to what is called a "coaching [Web] page," where the user is reminded about the off-peak policy for non-essential viewing. A coaching page comes up whenever someone using the corporate virtual private network (VPN) goes to a site where Brunswick finds that too much bandwidth is used and it's not necessarily work-related. Only about a dozen Web sites have been flagged with a coaching page, including NBC.com, where the Olympics will be featured prominently.

Once they read the page, users can then click to continue and view the content, or not proceed, and view it after work hours. "We don't prohibit you from going. We just ask you to make a decision before going," McClain said.

The system, including the coaching pages, work well, McClain said. "We have a history of working with the users and communicating, and we'll go forward," she said of the upcoming Olympics. "They know their name won't go on a list" for viewing the content. "It really is just an informative page," she said of the coaching page.

"Instead of blocking sites, we tell our users, 'we understand we're asking you to work in off hours when you are on the road, and that you will be using your laptop for personal stuff, too,'" McClain said. These policies allow workers to do their jobs as well as enjoy their time off, she said.

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Todd R. Weiss

Computerworld
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