Not so long ago, it would have been ridiculous to ask an employer to give you free TV, free movies, free music, and a free TV camera and crew at your house in case you wanted to work from home and conduct a meeting with coworkers. Yet, with the internet, all of these things and more are at the fingertips of most office employees and their remote counterparts. Naturally, a growing number of employees will use some or all of these services for personal use while under your roof and on the clock wasting your valuable bandwidth.
Many employees use much more bandwidth than necessary to do their jobs. As a business owner, what can you do about it? First of all, you’ve got to let your employees know that bandwidth is more than a commodity. Just like electricity, water, and leasing building space, bandwidth is a necessary expense you need to keep your business running; but unlike all the others, the amount of bandwidth you truly need varies based on the workload and what you allow. It can be overused by employees who stream videos, stream music or play video games between completing company tasks. So, what are the most abused “Bandwidth Bandits”? Let’s take a look.
Does your company upload or store video content on a daily basis? Many companies do these days, especially for Marketing and training purposes. In addition to these, what about the videos that are being watched in-between company projects? Viewing TV shows or movies online uses about 1 GB of data per hour for standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for HD video. Downloading and streaming consume about the same amount of data. Since just about everything online is HD quality, you can see that those streaming and storing video content are usually the guiltiest bandwidth abusers in your office.
Everything that is available to your employees through their internet connection is available through Wi-Fi. The extra strains Wi-Fi puts on bandwidth are caused by the users who connect their phones to Wi-Fi so they can save on their personal data plan. At no extra cost to them, they can stream video and surf online on their phones. Some people even use their phones to play video games while on (or off) their lunch breaks. Just being connected puts a small drain on your Wi-Fi, but all the rest can slow your network down to a crawl.
Using the Cloud adds a lot of flexibility to your business. The scalability allows you to tailor your bandwidth needs as your company’s needs grow or shrink, but the amount of bandwidth usage varies as more and more files and programs are shared through the Cloud. With subscription-based software programs becoming the norm, there’s data floating in and out of your employee’s workstations all day. If you use heavy-hitting data drainers, like HD video files that are shared between two or more employees, your Cloud gets weighed down fairly quickly. If not monitored properly, excess data usage through the Cloud can clog your system like hair in a bathtub drain.
Whether you’re working from home, meeting with clients, or even interviewing potential new employees, videoconferencing is definitely a tool that makes good business sense. Many business trips have been replaced by video conferencing, and that’s good for your budget; but now you’re sending that information through your internet connection, and that needs to be factored in your bandwidth needs. The good news is that video conferencing costs a lot less than travel, so spending a little more on bandwidth is probably the most cost-effective way to meet with people one on one.
Many people enjoy listening to music while at work, and if the company allows it, then it’s no big deal. Right? Well, mostly right. Problems may arise when the streaming music is left running 24 hours a day or multiple people are competing blasting their own tunes. The more people stream music, the more it will cause a drain on your bandwidth. Even though music streams at a low data rate, some services allow users to store their music files on the Cloud, and that causes a bump in the data flow. Accessing personal music files and streaming Internet Radio may not take up too much bandwidth, but the number of employees who are constantly listening to music adds up. If most of your employees listen to streaming music, then data usage should be monitored.
Humans are social creatures, and they search out ways to stay connected to people they are close to. Social media gives us many ways to stay in touch with others; but in the office, that comes at a price. When business owners calculate the bandwidth requirements for start-ups, they often don’t factor in their employee’s social media habits. Sure, most functions utilized through social media don’t use much data at all; but, increasingly, video attachments are sent along with a text message. Even in a compressed state, video files are among the greediest bandwidth thieves.
As you can see, there are many ways your bandwidth is being used throughout the day, and it can impact your business in a variety of ways. For example, just a few years ago it was taboo for employees to spend time watching videos on YouTube or looking at pictures of their nephew’s graduation on Facebook. Today, it is generally accepted that employees will spend some time doing these things.
As a business owner, you can place limits or controls on these habits, but these actions may cost you in other ways. Employee morale is linked to online habits, and if employees can’t stay in touch with their friends on your time, they’ll probably take more breaks than they used to so they can wish Aunt Edna a happy birthday.
It’s a challenge to find a balance between the bandwidth your business needs and the bandwidth your employees need. As the one who writes the checks, it may not seem fair that you’re funding someone else’s online habits, but in today’s business arena it’s the price of doing business. In the next blogs, we’ll show you how to rein in these data hogs all while maintaining positive company culture and avoiding mutiny.