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IT's Olympic challenge: Live streaming employees

BYOD may win Olympic gold in controlling streaming video costs

July 27, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - IT managers in businesses and governments are taking steps to ensure that the Summer Olympics do not bust networks or budgets. The opportunity for problems is there.

The Olympics will be live streamed, and London's time difference means that many events will occur during the workday.

Employers say, minimally, they'll be monitoring networks and will be prepared to cut off streaming access if they must. Some IT managers are reminding staff about network corporate policies.

Another problem is the potential for out-of-control mobile costs. Many employers support far more streaming-capable devices today than they did for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The iPhone was just a year old when the Beijing games began. The iPad and Android smartphones had yet to arrive. All these devices encourage streaming with the help of apps. The carriers have responded to this with data caps.

For employers that supply mobile equipment and pay carrier bills directly, there's the risk that streaming employees could exceed usage limits and drive up mobile budgets. But bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies have also introduced another model, where employers offer reimbursement up to a certain point or stipends.

Tom Amburgey, CIO of the town of Wellington, Fla., said that in terms of mobile charges, they recently implemented a reimbursement program for mobile users "so we are not directly paying for data charges, and if users go over, it will be at their personal expense," a benefit of BYOD, he noted.

"With that in mind, we are sending out warnings," Amburgey said, about the video usage "and the charges they may occur, simply as a friendly reminder."

Similarly, Deborah Gash, vice president and CIO of Saint Luke's Health System in Kansas City, Mo., said the hospital has moved to a stipend system for smart devices "so no worries about additional charges."

One company that has insight into mobile bills across its customer base is Tangoe, a telecom expense management firm. Tangoe sees potential problems for companies that pay the bills directly, especially with the carrier data caps.

Daniel Rudich, the senior vice president in charge of real time expense management at Tangoe, said the Olympics could have a 5% to 10% impact on their overall mobile budgets if users aren't prepared for it.

Big problems can come from individual employees traveling overseas, Rudich said. One Tangoe client had an employee who racked up more than $30,000 in charges thanks to a Final Four app that continuously updated scores. Another employee cost a company $175,000 in roaming charges on an air card after downloading the entire first season of the TV show Seinfeld in a country that lacked English language TV.

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