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IT teams’ challenges ramp up in maintaining high-quality network video experience

Companies providing streaming services have seen huge growth in demand, which has meant providing an optimal user experience while managing surging user traffic

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The massive strain on home networks, whether through video conferencing or streaming entertainment, has shown no signs of slowing down and those in charge of managing networks need to be more nimble and resilient within their workflows and infrastructure to ensure great user experience, says research from NS1.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have created a new normal of remote working for professionals across the globe, but it has also set a new normal for at-home video consumption, especially for streaming services during the working day. This situation could potentially add new strains to already pressured networks.

Assessing this new normal of behaviour, traffic measurement firm Nielsen said that when the pandemic set in early this year, the company knew that at-home video consumption would spike, but would probably gradually return to seasonal averages.

But in its research, Nielsen noted that seeing consumption rise and then normalise during the working day was somewhat unexpected, particularly among remote professionals and managers – but that was the new consumption reality.

The analyst also noted that two-thirds of remote-working professionals watched TV or streamed video content during their work breaks. In other cases, video had become a work companion, with 56% of respondents saying they watched TV or streamed video content with sound while they were working.

This new behaviour from at-home working professionals was adding stress to networks, the NS1 survey found. The modern application and access networking firm’s study, Growing demands for video streaming drive companies to intelligent traffic management solutions, conducted by streaming media analyst Dan Rayburn, took the views of more than 200 executives from companies of all sizes, primarily within the media and entertainment, telecommunications and technology industries.

It showed that before the Covid-19 pandemic, streaming video was already on the rise, thanks to the rapid uptake of entertainment services as well as for education, news and business and, like Nielsen, it noted that video has become an integral part of remote workers’ daily lives.

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The study noted that moving into 2021, this trend will continue, as more than half of respondents expect an increase in volume of streaming content over the next year. Of those, 32% said the volume of streaming content could potentially double in the next 12 months, and 10% expected the volume to more than double.

The report also found that traffic management challenges and visibility into quality of experience issues were top concerns for companies that engage in video streaming. As a result, 42% of companies surveyed that do not currently have solutions in place were looking to implement automated, intelligent traffic management in the next six to 12 months. Other top challenges included efficient traffic routing across a multi-CDN deployment (33%), and lack of visibility with supplier platforms (33%).

Just over three-fifths of the sample (62%) of respondents ranked automated and intelligent traffic routing as the most important tool for delivering a positive user experience. Also, more than half of respondents lack the appropriate technology to dynamically adjust routing for shifts in network availability, latency and congestion, which the study warned would result in inconsistent performance.

“Companies gain additional benefits and can address top-reported viewer concerns by selecting traffic steering platforms that ingest quality-of-experience metrics – real-time data about playback failures, startup times, rebuffering and video quality – along with real user monitoring and network data,” said Rayburn.

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