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RealTime IT News

Corporate Networks Could Be Strained by VoD Market

With the video-on-demand (VoD) industry still in the early stages, N2H2, an Internet content filtering company, is waving the red flag over the possible bandwidth drain lengthy movie downloads could cost corporate America.

While the VoD market has still not fully caught on for even the most committed movie-watching fanatics, there are still high expectations that by 2006, movies delivered over the Internet or television will account for 25-35 percent of the $10 billion video rental business.

The drawback is that movie files can be as large as 700 megabytes and can take as long as two hours to download even over high-speed broadband connections.

Seattle-based N2H2 begs the point that as VoD popularity takes off, companies like CinemaNOW and the long-awaited Movielink, a joint venture between the five biggest movie studios, could pose as bandwidth hogs for many corporate networks unless they are equipped to track, filter, and block indiscriminate use of company bandwidth.

"The three things that are driving the adoption of Internet filtering software in the workplace are concerns over lost productivity, misused bandwidth, and fear of liability when it comes to employees creating a hostile work environment," said David Burt, a company spokesperson for N2H2.

Research firm Market Resources says that 59 percent of nationwide IT professionals cite the misuse of company bandwidth as a high priority issue in today's work environment, in addition to issues of diminished employee productivity.

With only 15 percent of U.S. homes wired for high-speed Internet access, the desire to download a movie could spur an exodus of employees into using their employer's broadband connections to prepare for their own home entertainment pleasure.

"If employees use their employer's high-speed connections to download Internet movies, the employer's networks could be brought to a halt by the increased traffic and bandwidth demands," says N2H2. "A company relying on a 1.54 MB/sec T1 line for Internet connectivity could find Internet access tied up by a single movie download, wasting bandwidth and diminishing productivity for the entire company."

Among the many types of filtering software on the market designed for corporate control over employee Internet usage is N2H2's Sentian software, which enables companies to manage bandwidth use by blocking certain Web sites, file types, or all streaming media activity in general.

Other filter makers include FastTracker, a Boulder, Co.-based company that serves as a filter host for blocking inappropriate, bandwidth-saturating content for corporations; Australia-based ContentKeeper; and Texas-based FutureSoft, which makes the DynaComm i:filter.

According to FutureSoft President and CEO Rick Mansel, the issue of video downloads is posing an increasing problem for many company networks.

"It's an issue that can have a dramatic negative effect on bandwidth," said Mansel. "It's just going to mushroom because more and more content is available on demand."

FutureSoft's DynaComm i:filter software enables IT managers to configure the Web filtering product so that it blocks gambling sites, pornography, movie files, MP3 files, and the list goes on to include a categorized database of Internet destinations that are inappropriate for employee visitation. That list is constantly updated and revised by FutureSoft's staff and an automated search tool, depending on the preference of any given company. i:filter can also control activity by time of day and by what activity a user performs on any given site. In some cases an employee can visit a site, but not download content or view streaming media.

"The use of bandwidth-intensive streaming media in the workplace can be an expensive problem for employers, and filtering software can be an important part of the solution," said Brian Burke, Internet security analyst for IDC.