Managing access a matter of balance

Keeping internet usage in the workplace under control doesn't need to be an exercise in denial but more about striking a balance between access and control.

Managing bandwidth and internet access in today’s workplace is a hot-button issue; the days of  internet access in the office being a privilege are long gone. Given how connected today's workplaces are to the internet, loosening policy should be something of a no-brainer. While there are risks involved and there will always be those that abuse the system, the benefits simply outweigh the potential of abuse.

The question of lost productivity is a pertinent one but the perception that open access will lead to staff spending the whole day on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Spotify is erroneous. Instead, managing the traffic and the associated costs of unfettered access are far more important issues.  

Pereventing employees from checking  personal email and accesing social media accounts is, quite frankly, a fool's errand. Then there is also the consideration of how much enterprise mail traffic and storage is saved by allowing staff to receive messages via their personal emails and social media accounts.

The additional freedom does comes with some baggage, mainly a lot of internet traffic, and that’s where the financial issues arise.

Let’s face it, cost of data in Australia is expensive, and we all need to manage our bottom lines.

To make matters worse, there's also the issue of non-business traffic starting to compete against the core business systems traffic. Decision makers need to be aware that a competition for bandwidth could lead to degraded services for the core business systems.

Checks and balances

This is where Quality of Service (QoS) comes into play. QoS is when you apply a certain set of rules or policies to manage and improve your network performance. What QoS does is allow your IT department to restrict access or bandwidth to specific sites or applications.

More importantly, QoS allocates a specific percentage of bandwidth for business critical applications. This is vital when you are trying to manage SLAs on mission critical business applications.

QoS gets more interesting when you start being specific with policies, that is, calling out specific applications into groups. For example let’s use:

·         P1 (Mission Critical)

·         P2 (Normal Business Applications)

·         P3 (Non-business traffic)

The policy applied could specify that:

·         P1 gets minimum bandwidth allowance of 60 per cent and a maximum of 80 per cent

·         P2 gets minimum bandwidth allowance of 20 per cent and a maximum of 40 per cent

·         P3 gets minimum bandwidth allowance of 0 per cent and a maximum of 20 per cent

The second part of the rule will set the hierarchy / rule of where the excess usage can be acquired, P3 in this instance. In a situation where mission critical applications need additional bandwidth because of a specific job that is running, then they can take as much as they need from P1 as long as they do not take more than 80% of the total traffic and therefore allow other normal business functions to operate.

QoS gives you the luxury of knowing that you can manage and control your bandwidth while also giving staff the luxury of open internet access.

Having said that, there are obviously some sites that must be blocked for the good of both the company and the staff. However, managing usage doesn't need to be an exercise in denial but more about striking a balance between access and control.

George Khreish is head of technology at Business Spectator and Eureka Report.

Follow George on twitter: @georgekhreish