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Don’t Let This Happen To Your Network



Bandwidth hog slow down network

Could this happen to you? My business depends on its Internet connection. We have 40 employees and we’ve been bogging down lately with a slow connection.

This was a real problem for us because we do most of our sales online. Most of our customers download the software they buy from us. And our administration involves taking and processing orders over the web.

We’re in Oregon, but our sites are run from a server farm in another state. We access most of our stuff remotely.

Our alpha geek, Curt Barnes, is good at networks, but he was stumped for several days. It’s hard to work through all the variables. Did we have some worm kidnapping our computers? He used network monitoring utilities, asked about heavy downloads, reinstalled some virus checkers.

Finally we discovered that one of our employees had an old Napster installation. And that’s where this gets interesting.

I have nothing against Napster. You’ve probably heard how Napster cleaned up its act, settled with the music publishers, and went legitimate. Lots of people I know subscribe, pay the monthly fee, and like the service. As far as we know, Napster is no longer in the business of facilitating illegal file sharing.

What Curt discovered, however, is that Napster still has an innocent-looking option that ends up creating a huge drain on bandwidth. It’s the sharing option, shown in the image above.

The wording of this option seems innocent enough. “Make my library and member name available so members can browse through the songs in my library.”

Results, however, were serious. After identifying the problem on one computer, he solved it there; but when I was asking about it for this post, he decided to double check and installed Napster on a different computer, one without any music to share.

Without the Napster computer open, we had 40 employees using a combined total of 10% of our bandwidth. With the Napster computer set up as shown here, the bandwidth usage went to 81%.

When he got it off the computer again, bandwidth usage went down again to about 10%.

I was surprised. So I decided I’d post this in the hopes you don’t get caught like we did.

Image credit: The author from his Planning, Startups, Stories blog.

7 Comments ▼

Tim Berry


Tim Berry Tim Berry is Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, Founder of Bplans, Co-Founder of Borland International, Stanford MBA, and co-founder of Have Presence. He is the author of several books and thousands of articles on business planning, small business, social media and startup business.

7 Reactions

  1. Hi Tim,
    useful information thanks.
    I’ve just checked and found the same problem !
    Thanks to you.
    Cheers
    Lucio

  2. I have seen this before on customers computers. Limewire is also responsible for eating up bandwidth and CPU.

  3. Interesting. I guess that would make a lot of sense and may not be easily caught. Thanks for pointing this out.

  4. NTOP product is a good tool for tracking what is using bandwidth on your network.
    Jamie

  5. One of my previous employers had a similar problem. It may seem like an urban legend, but we had trouble with certain internet-enabled screen savers that played streaming video. During lunch time we always had spikes of bandwidth usage not proportional to the usual slacking off. It turns out there were a few computers with these video screen savers that ate up the bandwidth.

  6. This problem can also be solved using a firewall between your router and the rest of your network with capabilities to provide QoS (Quality of Service). This firewalls have the ability to give less priority to file-sharing programs and the likes, and high priority to normal browsing and other services.

    Devices like these: (the keyword is QoS)
    http://www.amazon.com/802-11G-Wless-Bb-Router-qos/dp/B000PCY5OK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1197766039&sr=1-2
    http://www.amazon.com/Adsl-Router-Switch-Firewall-Multple/dp/B000A2AGTS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1197766131&sr=1-1

    or even a cheap linux PC with firewall capabilities.

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