Streaming Audio: An Enabling Tool or Productivity Drain?

Jul 18, 2011
3 minutes

There is a view in some IT circles that any non-work related application should be banned. Social networking is their poster child and the rationale is that these apps are time wasting, bandwidth hogging, threat inducing etc.. The common reaction is to ban them all! The contrarian view is that social networking is used, as a means of getting your job done, as well as socializing. We believe that more and more IT organizations are aligning themselves with the latter of these two viewpoints.

For those who view social networking is the scourge of the work place, what I’m about to say will likely fall upon deaf ears. However, for those who are aware of how today’s knowledge workers get their work done, allow me to advocate why streaming audio as a group of applications deserves a similar acceptance on corporate networks.

  • First off, everybody’s doing it: In the latest Application Usage and Risk Report (link),  which analyzed network traffic of over 1,200 organizations worldwide, the use of streaming audio applications was seen in 9 out of 10 organizations.
  • Secondly, the near universal usage of audio streaming applications places very little strain on bandwidth consumption compared to other application categories. For example, Email consumed more than 5% of the bandwidth while streaming audio consumed 0.24%.
  • Thirdly, there’s no denying the popularity of streaming audio applications. Pandora, a very popular streaming audio site in the US, just had successful public offering (link). With a $2.7B market cap and millions of users in the US alone, they are clearly doing something right. And just last week, Spotify, a popular European streaming audio site recently announced its expansion plans into the US market (link).

The final and perhaps most prescient point is that employees need their space and personal music with headphones is one way of achieving this. Many of us at Palo Alto Networks listen to music at work all the time. I personally do because we work in a collaborative, bullpen environment  and I am easily distracted, so it’s my way of ensuring that I can focus on accomplishing my job.

So in reality, streaming audio is not only an entertainment application, it is also an enabling application. And as I look around our open floor-plan office space, I see many of my colleagues following a similar approach. And I know they are not slackers who are wasting time. How about your personal work habits? Are you a fan or foe to personal applications having a place in your workspace? Let us know!


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