If statistics are any indication, your network’s in trouble.

Video streams viewed online, according to a report
from Accustream Media Research, grew 50 percent in 2005. Further, the growth of
video streaming is being driven by promotional initiatives, continued
innovation and, likely, boredom.

Then add to the mix music subscriptions and downloads, where
revenue grew almost 400 percent in 2004 and 154 percent in 2005 according to
another Accustream report.
Factor in forecasted growth for 2006, and it won’t be long until streaming
media threatens to overrun private networks. With little oversight, it’s easy
to see how legitimate business traffic could suffer, and productivity slowdowns
occur, as a result of network congestion triggered by multimedia streams.

First line of defense

Technology controls form your first line of defense. Firewalls,
security appliances and Microsoft’s Internet Security and Acceleration Server
are among the options available for helping monitor, block and manage your
organization’s network traffic.

With the appropriate systems in place, you can block access to
popular audio and video Web sites and services, including iTunes, Launchcast,
Napster and Rhapsody. Your organization can also leverage group and system
policies to restrict end users from downloading and installing known streaming
media programs and applications.

But users are smart. They’re enterprising. And lucky. Some
will discover methods (purposefully or unintentionally) of circumventing
controls designed to protect networks from streaming media, audio downloads and
other distracting streamed content.

Bolster controls with a policy

Provide your organization with another layer of defense;
implement a streaming media policy. Designed and deployed properly, such a policy
protects your organization’s computers, servers, systems and networks from
extraneous, bandwidth-consuming material. Better yet, a well-enforced streaming
media policy can serve as a potent defense in protecting an organization from
claims it helped enable the illegal distribution of pirated works, all while
removing distractions that threaten to hamper productivity within the

Another benefit of policies is their flexibility. Should
your organization wish to permit employees to view streamed multimedia earnings
announcements or training sessions, the policy can be adjusted to allow such
use. It’s easy to add the stipulation that authorized streaming media
applications and programs may be accessed using organization computers,
servers, systems and/or networks only for the purpose of fulfilling business
activities. Thus, the organization can leverage the benefits of streaming media
while mitigating its dangers.

If you’re unsure whether your organization requires a
streaming media policy, review TechRepublic’s Streaming Media Vulnerability
Assessment. The interactive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet will help gauge your
organization’s exposure. By reviewing specific criteria regarding your
organization’s industry, technology protections and culture, and by ranking
specific aspects of those criteria, the tool makes it easier to obtain a more
objective determination. The assessment also provides some justification to
staff when rolling out such a policy.

Should a policy ultimately be required, check out TechRepublic’s
Streaming Media Policy. The ready-made template can be used as-is, or you can
customize it to meet specific streaming media needs within your organization.

However you develop it, your organization’s streaming media policy
should include all of the following:

  • Statements
    that end users are prohibited from downloading, installing and/or operating
    unauthorized streaming media programs, applications and devices
  • Specific
    examples of prohibited streaming media networks, programs and devices
  • Acknowledgement
    that the employee has read and understands the terms of the policy
  • Potential
    penalties resulting from violations of the policy or any of its tenets

Once the policy’s complete, just distributing the document
doesn’t complete the process. Information Technology departments must monitor
networks for suspicious activity, update firewalls, servers and other security
appliances as required and enforce the policy.

Some users are bound to complain. Point to the necessity of
such a policy to win support. Here are some statistics to back your case:

  • Software
    manufacturer SurfControl reports
    that just 20 minutes of inappropriate use–merely the length of four or
    five songs or videos a day–costs a 100-employee company more than $8,000
    a week.
  • IT
    analyst firm Gartner estimates
    non-work related Internet surfing, which can include viewing the NCAA men’s
    college basketball tournament and Major League Baseball games online,
    costs businesses a 40 percent loss in productivity annually.
  • A
    survey released by Internet management solutions provider Burstek claims
    more than 20 percent of all organization-provided Internet use is used for
    entertainment, among other activities. Worse, the study estimates that
    over 20 percent of all bandwidth costs are due to personal use.

Considering the trends and statistics, policies appear
warranted. For more information on implementing policies effectively, review
the following TechRepublic articles: “Use
a policy audit to ensure that your policies are followed,”
how to win support for your new IT policy,”
and “Creating
an IT policy that works.”

Add the following blurb highlighted at the end including a link to 6070917

You can quickly implement a streaming media policy in your organization by
downloading TechRepublic’s Streaming Media Policy. Included you’ll find a risk assessment spreadsheet that will help you
determine the importance of such a policy to your organization’s
security along with a basic policy that you can use and modify. You can purchase it from the TechRepublic Catalog or download it for free as part of your TechRepublic Pro membership.