Security Experts:

P2P Traffic and Streaming Media are Killing Enterprise Bandwidth, Report

Using data taken from raw application traffic within some 2,000 organizations worldwide, the semi-annual Application Usage and Risk Report from Palo Alto Networks shows that streaming media, P2P applications, and social networking are sucking the corporate bandwidth away from other areas where bandwidth and availability are a must.

Palo Alto Networks LogoBetween November 2011 and May 2012, P2P traffic on the networks used for the study jumped 700% - representing 14% of the overall traffic during the reporting period. Moreover, streaming media applications such as Netflix and YouTube, accounted for a 300% jump when compared to the last Palo Alto study. As such, the traffic is marked as representing 13% of the monitored organizations’ traffic.

Social networking was present as well. At least one social networking application was detected on 97 percent of the participating organizations, with an average of 29 different social networking applications found in each participating organization. As expected, Facebook and Twitter were the top platforms, but Tumblr and Pinterest made notable appearances.

Palo Alto notes that the key concerns with this data are business continuity risks; where some business applications that require bandwidth may suffer, translating to a bad user (customer) usage experience. In addition, there are operational costs to consider – from additional bandwidth to traffic monitoring and switching solutions (QoS), and productivity loss.

The key to dealing with these examples of bandwidth hogging isn’t to block them; IT has always been the department of “NO!” in many cases. This time however, it’s easier to realize that the personal and professional lives of the employees within a given organization have merged.

As such, policies need to be written and enforced that account for these usage cases.

“As the lines between professional and private life continue to blur, our data shows that employees are increasingly using personal technologies like Netflix and Tumblr in the workplace,” said René Bonvanie, chief marketing officer at Palo Alto Networks.

“The key to this ‘new reality’ is not to ignore or even vilify the existence of these applications, but to manage their usage with policies that give today’s modern workforce the flexibility they desire without impeding on the business.”

The full report is available here in PDF format, and a visual tool that examines the raw data is available here.  

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.