Did you experience bandwidth issues during the recent Olympic Games?
By Dean Goldhill, Network & Security Specialist, Netutils
This post contains original thoughts posted by Dean Goldhill, Network & Security Specialist, Network (Utilities) Systems Ltd. These views are his own.
Here we discuss a solution to a common network issue you may have experienced following an unexpected bandwidth spike. If you’ve been following our round ups you’ll see that recently we’ve been regularly blogging and video blogging on how both enterprise and service providers can take control and accelerate their WAN traffic. And recently we’ve had an increase in calls asking for advice and direction on some typical network issues experienced during the recent Olympic Games.
The Olympic Games whilst being a unique event, in some instances, had the effect of highlighting network problems that already existed. The result being that some company networks just simply couldn’t cope with the increase in network traffic as users tried to stream video of the games or use personal applications at work and business critical applications suffered as a result. But the issues highlighted by the games should not just be seen as isolated events there are many other reasons why your network may experience a bandwidth spike and downtime can be costly and time consuming.
In this blog post we’ll walk you through a typical example we’ve recently been presented with from a company with a site-to-site VPN between themselves and 2 other branch offices.
Background: The set up at this branch office allows employees to work from one branch and connect back to the servers in their own branch offices. So for all these users all traffic, mail server, Intranet, SharePoint etc. all has to go via the VPN/Internet.
When the Olympic Games started, users started complaining about slow, unreliable service for business critical applications.
And it wasn’t immediately as the games started, it was as the word spread around the building, and more and more people started watching the games online, the normal business service just got worse and worse until about the middle of the first week these users started saying they pretty much couldn’t work at all. The issue affected about 100 users in total and that’s quite a loss of productivity!
The challenge for this company was that they had a lack of network visibility, they couldn’t see what was causing the issue and they had no control over how to fix it.
Solution: Following our initial site inspection and investigation we discovered that the issue was that the internet bandwidth was being chewed up by people watching the Olympic Games online.
Another factor which made a solution trickier was that the broadcaster streaming service used for the games coverage does not use the video streaming protocol like most other services. Instead it transmits over the regular HTTP (port 80) so the affected company’s proxy server which is configured to stop regular users using video streaming services, was not stopping any users from streaming content like the games.
Furthermore, it was very difficult to block the streaming services because the broadcaster use a large number of IP addresses for load balancing, and we also did not want to be to block the service from the broadcaster altogether.
We successfully managed to find the actual URL for the video streaming servers and blocked it via their proxy servers. This effectively stopped the vast majority of users from streaming the games.
But the point here is that ideally, we don’t want to block these services by using URL’s, we want to block them by using a product that understands the traffic at the application layer (layer 7) and be able to block (or control) them irrespective of where the traffic is coming from or what protocol is being used to deliver it. Regardless of whether your company applications are network or cloud based your network is likely to face performance challenges often exacerbated by events like the Olympic Games or BYOD.
As a result more & more companies across a variety of industries are investing in online tools, resources and portals that deliver continued control, actionable performance insights & user driven application optimisation. Exinda Edge is an all-in-one WAN optimisation suite designed specifically to deliver a complete solution for branch networks.
Suggested further reading ‘Exinda Edge White Paper – Assuring The Strategic Branch Office Network’