Bans on Streaming at Work Target Bandwidth-Eating Sites

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With employees hogging the Internet networks at work with heavy video and audio files unrelated to their jobs, more companies are shutting off streaming sites or limiting access.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is the latest mega-employer to confirm that it has shut down access to Pandora and Netflix for its 129,000 employees. Other sites required for business — YouTube and Facebook — aren't blocked for now, but P&G warned workers about using the Internet for personal reasons, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, which reported on the change.

Other companies, such as GE Aviation , Cintas , Kraft subsidiary Cadbury and Major League Baseball, have also blocked or limited access to bandwidth-sucking sites. The bandwidth constraint faced by Corporate America is unfolding nationwide at an unprecedented rate as websites and apps are embedding larger files and more employees bring their own devices — phones and tablets — to work.

"There are more devices, more apps and more sites. And companies have to come up with policy on the fly," says Andrew Rubin, CEO of Cymtec, which develops products that help companies manage their network. "It's a decision you make. Three days later, it's a whole new landscape."

That websites are quickly changing also makes corporate decisions difficult. A few years ago, Facebook was a social-gathering site, but it has morphed into a platform for videos and a vital marketing tool.

Modis, a information technology recruiting firm, has restricted video sites such as Netflix and YouTube as well as Pandora's online radio service at its more than 70 offices in the U.S. Across the board, its customers are facing similar issues. "Clients say they keep adding servers and still don't have enough (bandwidth)," says Modis President Jack Cullen. "People leave Pandora open and don't even think about it."

Some employers seek out options beyond unconditional blocking of sites and monitoring individual employee Web consumption. After discovering that students were jamming its network by downloading music and video files, Texas A&M University deliberately set aside more network bandwidth to critical business applications during the day. Students get more bandwidth in the evenings for studying and fun, says Nolan Rosen of Exinda, which consulted the university on managing the network. "It's an explosive issue."