What better day to discuss the issue of streaming audio/video than today? With the NCAA Tournament upon us, and CBS offering up every game at no cost, there will undoubtedly be more than a few of our users who decide to spend the afternoon keeping track of their bracket selections.
We’ve tried blocking this type of traffic in the past, but any such efforts on our part have not lasted long. The reality of our business is such that we need to ability to view or listen to streaming video/audio in order to do our jobs. We have Public Relations and Public Affairs people whose jobs require them to monitor local and national media for breaking stories. We have Creative and Account Service people who routinely use YouTube for viewing the latest commercials created for both our own clients and our competitors. As a result, any efforts to block this traffic have been short-lived.
We’ve tried monitoring tools, using both software and/or hardware to attempt to keep tabs on streaming in order to cut down on the non-productive uses (today’s basketball games would be a great example). The problem with monitoring is that it can get expensive. We’ve got 5 different external pipes we’d have to monitor, so any appliance-based solution would require 5 pieces of hardware to monitor all the access points. Furthermore, it requires somebody to watch things, and none of us really have the time to sit at our desks and monitor real-time streaming. When we have done this sort of thing, generally the only time we check is when we’re hearing complaints about things being slow. Today might be an exception, but at the moment we’ve basically given up.
I’ve always resisted the urge to have IT personnel act as “cops” when it comes to these types of productivity issues. We do have a policy against non-business use which covers this type of thing, but as far as actively monitoring, I’d much rather have my guys spending their time fixing things and finding ways to increase productivity than acting as a high-priced police force. If we can find some ways to monitor things without breaking the bank, great but otherwise we’ve got better things to do. Personally, I feel very strongly that it’s the job of management to keep tabs on their own personnel, and I think it’s a bit of a cop out for folks to expect IT to do that job for them. If an Account Executive is wasting their time watching basketball games or viewing non-work related videos on YouTube, I would expect that to be reflected in their job performance. IT might be called in to verify that type of activity is occurring, and I’m perfectly ok with that. I just don’t believe that we should be the ones bringing productivity issues to the attention of managers. It should work the other way around.
How does your company handle these types of issues? Do you monitor? Are you doing anything special with regards to blocking the NCAA tournament coverage?