Social media sucks bandwidth, but cache can help

YouTube takes up more business bandwidth “than anything else,” according to Network Box Ltd., a Hong Kong-based managed security company, which finds that 10 per cent of all corporate bandwidth is spent watching YouTube videos.

Facebook follows second in Network Box’s “bandwidth busting” Web sites list, accounting for 4.5 per cent of all bandwidth use, and Windows Update ranks third with 3.3 per cent.

The stats, released in April, are based on an analysis of Web site traffic and usage from medium-sized businesses in various geographic regions around the world during the first quarter of 2010.

Network Box also looked at the Web sites most visited by businesses, and found Facebook ranked first with 6.8 per cent of all traffic. Google came second at 3.4 per cent, Yahoo’s image server Yimg ranked third at 2.8 per cent and Yahoo itself followed close behind at 2.4 per cent. 

Simon Heron, internet security analyst for Network Box, said he was surprised to see YouTube accounting for 10 per cent of corporate bandwidth. “I think that is a phenomenal amount for video download,” he said.

The findings raise two productivity issues, according to Heron. First, “if your bandwidth is slow because people are downloading videos and other such stuff, then that makes your company less efficient and you can’t get as much work done,” he said.

Second, “if people are actually spending time doing this, then they themselves are not particularly productive either,” said Heron. 

Heron suspects a lot of companies are unaware that this is happening. “In some businesses, this can be legitimate and can be something that generates business,” he said. Public relations or marketing, for example, might use social media as a way to get their brand out there, but they are a minority in companies of this size, he said. 

SuperLumin Networks, a subsidiary of Stratacache Inc., says its Social Media Cache for medium and large enterprises can help.

The Social Media Cache is designed to reduce the social media problem, said Mark Ackerman, senior software engineer at SuperLumin. “We are seeing easily 20 to 30 per cent of the data that is moving through the corporate network is social media,” he said.

Clients see on average a 25 to 30 per cent bandwidth reduction for social media, he said.

In the caching space, the biggest problem with social media is the volume, said Ackerman.  Another problem with social media is its size, he said. “So much more of the data is video content, large content, that’s affecting the overall bandwidth that a company has,” he said.

“Every time you go into your browser and ask for a page, there is a full round trip all the way out to the corporate server and then back. Once you deploy a cache, a lot of data begins to makes a very short local trip and just goes to the cache,” he said.

Most of the caching problems stem from the fact that social media sites have their own distribution models, said Ackerman. “Ultimately, most caches end up in a situation where they are caching multiple instances of the same object because they can’t figure out that they are the same object,” he said.

SuperLumin’s Social Media Cache is essentially proprietary code that is capable of deciphering their redistribution schemes, said Ackerman. The product integrates with existing proxies, performs as a reverse proxy and only caches social media requests.

The Social Media Cache is non-traditional because it is deployed locally in reverse, he said. “Reverses function based on DNS … so what happens is essentially, the proxy becomes listed as where you go to fulfill any YouTube or Facebook or any social media requests,” he said.

One of the advantages of deploying a social media cache, separate from other caching hardware or software a company might be using, is that “it actually takes the social media content out of band from your normal data,” he said.   

“By taking a cache and dedicating it to social media, and then essentially routing all of the social media sites through that cache, it now allows your traditional cache to be much more efficient at your core data, not cycling your data out,” he said.

SuperLumin is essentially a traditional proxy with the added benefit of having “the best cache out there,” said Ackerman.

Different proxies do different things better, he said. “There are others that have targeted more of a filtering play or maybe a security play,” said Ackerman.

Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur. 

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