You SURE You Want Your YouTube?

Online video services like Google Video, YouTube, AOL Uncut and vMix present IT managers and execs with unforeseen liability and bandwidth challenges.

July 28, 2006

4 Min Read
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What do the numbers 65,000, 20 million and 2.5 billion represent? They're the numbers, respectively, of new video uploads per day, unique visitors per month and video views per month on YouTube as of June. And they're growing quickly. But the YouTube phenomenon is not just about new technology--it's about momentum. "The problem with any work of creativity is finding an audience," says Greg Kostello, CEO of vMix Media, one of several public video-service start-ups. "The Internet and the Web have a history of taking people's creative works and making them available to the world."

Indeed, everyone I know has watched at least a few videos on YouTube. My wife, my daughter, my 80-year-old mom, doctors, lawyers, CEOs ... even Bill Gates, speaking at The Wall Street Journal's "D" conference (d.wsj. com/ index. html), said he watches videos on YouTube. And it's not only YouTube. MSN, Google Video, Yahoo, the new AOL Uncut, vMix and others offer similar services. And consumer demand for such services is fueling growth in the private video-sharing market as well, as some users prefer to post their homemade videos on less widely viewed sites.

It's On Your Network

What does all this have to do with enterprise IT networking? Everything! Those are your users watching other people's videos on your network. And content gets added to these sites faster than it can possibly be policed, which means inappropriate and illegal content is uploaded far more rapidly than it can be identified and removed. In fact, some of the most popular clips on YouTube are copyright-violating excerpts from TV shows or DVDs, and sites like PeekVid and The Best of YouTube are external indexes that point primarily to copyrighted content. We've all heard about the liability issues related to porn on corporate networks. And if copyrighted material is downloaded to your network and subsequently uploaded by an employee, the Motion Picture Association of America can come after the entity that owns the source IP address at the time of upload--likely an IP address from the NAT pool on your corporate gateway, which makes you that entity.

Another way videos impact your network is how easy it is to create them. More than half of all mobile phones shipped this year will be camera phones, according to IC Insights. And employees often bring their personal cell phones to the office and create short videos for amusement--do a simple search and you'll find thousands of such videos on YouTube. What happens when one of these employees inadvertently captures a co-worker in the background in an embarrassing position and posts the file to the Web, and the co-worker sues the company? Or when confidential corporate documents, diagrams or conversations are unintentionally revealed?And we haven't even touched on the most obvious impact to corporate IT networks: bandwidth loss. Variations of "Bus Uncle"--a video of an argument between two bus passengers--have been viewed millions of times, according to YouTube. How many of those views have traversed your Internet connection, and how much of your valuable bandwidth have they hogged?

It Doesn't Have To Be All or Nothing

What's the remedy? First, create video policies and communicate them--most employees will probably comply. Second, keep logs of IP addresses, all the way to client computers, so if the MPAA comes after you, you'll be able to identify the individual who's allegedly responsible.

Of course, you could block YouTube and other video sites at the firewall--but that would be a bit militaristic. New technologies are bound to appear that can scan content in real time to block inappropriate video, much the way WebSense blocks inappropriate Web pages. And as for bandwidth: By default, YouTube and competing sites stream video, so it's not cacheable by standard Web caches, but there are many PC applications designed to convert streamed video from YouTube and similar sites to files. No doubt appliances that can perform this conversion, cache the video, redirect client requests to the local cache, and improve performance while cutting bandwidth requirements will emerge, too. Keep your eyes peeled.

Pete Tenereillo was one of the developers of the first commercial server load balancer and the first firewall appliance. He is currently an independent consultant. Write to him at [email protected].0

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