​Streaming the Superbowl? Make sure you go downtown on your IT Security

By Head Geek, Partick Hubbard from SolarWinds

It really is one of the iconic events of the sporting calendar. Every year some of the biggest stars in American sport battle in the biggest show on earth.

The Superbowl is televised in 170 countries and in 2015, the New England Patriots defeating the Seattle Seahawks was the most watched single television program ever in the US, seen by a record 114.4 million viewers. The spectacle is not just sport, but a showcase of entertainment with pre game and half time shows that feature musicians and celebrities alike .

With the game being televised at 10:30am, this will become problematic for Superbowl enthusiasts. For many workers streaming the game in the office will be an attractive option, much to the despair of IT departments.

The flexibility shown by Australian businesses to allow both work and personal devices to access their IT systems, streaming events could not be easier. But multimedia streaming can have a detrimental effect on your IT security. The spike in traffic on your network can affect a number of issues including productivity and slower connections. This was evident in the recent US federal election coverage, where a number of Australian websites were painfully slow for users. We will find it hard to control the watching eyes shouting for the New England Patriots or Atlanta Falcons, but we can control our infrastructure. We have come up six plays for organisations and their IT admins to ensure you’re not affected as the Superbowl is only days away.

Test the impact of changes to a website from the end-user's perspective before

Hindsight is 20:20, but preparing for an event of huge interest takes some planning. A lot of testing takes place from the developer’s side, but some issues won’t manifest themselves until you put yourself in the end-user’s shoes – or, indeed, get someone in your organisation to stress-test the system. Set alerts and establish normal performance baselines then monitor each crucial step of transactions to identify problems. Once done, monitor from multiple locations to make sure all are performing optimally.

Ensure adequate capacity for influx of users

Think about the interest of your users. When are they likely to be online? When would they be attempting to stream a match on the Rod Laver arena? Using monitoring systems' historical data to gauge the capacity of your network (for example, conduct 95th percentile load planning) allows you to allocate sufficient buffer, or the ability to scale, in preparing for those likely peaks.

Monitor availability and performance of the supporting infrastructure

Monitor everything you can, including shared storage, visualisation infrastructure, database, firewall and core network components and the WAN links to the outside world. Utilise IT staff or hosting providers to ensure any problems identified by monitoring solutions are quickly resolved; and support them with rigorous automation which can either fix minor problems, or buy your team enough time to solve larger ones without dramatically affecting performance.

Make sure your suppliers are one dial away

If you are reliant on any outsourced services (like bandwidth, IT support) make sure that you have informed your vendor of your expected spike in traffic. It’s also crucial to have a direct contact in case any issues arise, as well as an awareness of the supplier’s ability and costs in scaling up and down. And 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 which may occur.

Maximise your bandwidth

Ensure that the bandwidth that connects your online IT resources is uninterrupted by day-to-day business operations, such as third-party updates. Once again, this is an issue best solved by scaling and monitoring: if you can track your traffic across the network, and rapidly provision additional bandwidth if you see a spike in progress, you’ll be able to ensure a seamless experience for both your organisation and its users.

Have an offline backup

This is perhaps the most important point. If your system is down at any time, what other ways can you still ensure your organisation is working? Make sure that the transition between primary and backup systems (or “failovers”) is automated so that you minimise downtime for users.

Rigorous network monitoring coupled with the ability to rapidly scale your resources – and topped with a good dose of foresight – will put your business in the “nice” category for customers.

Tags bandwidthIT SecuritySolarWindssuperbowlstreamingstreaming sports

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