Top Five Tips for IT Managers to Keep Their Network Running Smoothly Through Peak Events

(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post was co-written with my fellow Head-Geek Thomas LaRock, and originally appeared on TechInvest Online)

With some of the biggest global sporting and entertainment events just around the corner, Australians are gearing up for everything from the Academy Awards to the Super Rugby season in the coming months. During these peak events, thousands of Australian fans will be simultaneously streaming online across a range of devices to witness these not-to-be-missed highlights, even at work.

Much to the despair of IT departments, multimedia streaming can have a detrimental effect on an organisation’s IT and security. The spike in traffic on the network can affect a number of issues, including productivity and slower connections.

So how can IT professionals tackle this issue? Here are the top five tips for IT managers to keep their network running smoothly during peak events:

1) Stress-test the impact on a website from the end user’s perspective before the event

The better prepared you are, the more likely it is that event days will go by smoothly. Run tests based on several people—or the entire office, if your entire team’s keen on more than just awards season—streaming on different devices from official and unofficial sites. That’ll give you some idea of the bandwidth consumption that you might expect on the day itself, as well as how it might impact other apps using the network—whether from a latency, fidelity, or even cybersecurity perspective. Once you have a clear picture of how the additional network load might impact your infrastructure, work out the most likely points of failure and how to monitor them for potential drops in performance.

2) Anticipate the peak—and buffer for it

Use your monitoring systems’ historical data to gauge the capacity of your network (for example, conduct 95th percentile load planning), so that you can allocate sufficient buffer, or the ability to scale, during live events. Doing this alongside your stress tests will give you the best idea of what to expect on the day itself.

3) Monitor your vital signs

Keep a close watch on critical infrastructure like shared storage, virtualisation infrastructure, and WAN networks. As you do, don’t forget to track your monitoring platform’s bandwidth consumption to ensure that it doesn’t add to the issues of peak demand that it’s trying to manage. Keep IT staff or hosting providers on standby to ensure any problems identified by monitoring solutions are quickly resolved. Better yet, build automated solutions to fix minor problems, or allocate workloads to the cloud wherever you can; doing so will give you the ability to automatically scale up network and compute resources without IT breaking a sweat.

4) Keep your suppliers on speed dial

Good communication could be the difference between a system that works seamlessly and one that crashes during event days. If you are reliant on any outsourced services (like bandwidth or IT support), it pays to communicate to vendors beforehand of any expected spikes in traffic as well as keeping their contact details on hand. Additionally, do your research to ensure the third-party’s technology meets their promise. While SLAs may guarantee you some level of financial recompense in the event of an outage, they’ll do little to repair the damage to consumer loyalty and reputation that may occur.

5) Always have a backup plan

An offline backup is crucial no matter what day of the year it is. But is there a better way than simply waiting for an outage to trigger your failover? A P2P network for load balancing won’t just benefit you during event nights—consider installing one to support your business during any instance of peak demand. The more smoothly you can manage bandwidth consumption peaks and troughs, the less reliant you’ll be on options of last resort like offline backups and other DR contingencies.

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