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October 7, 2009

Spotify celebrates first birthday

But is music streaming app throttling your network?

By Steve Evans

Online music streaming service Spotify celebrates its first birthday today, but questions have been raised about the impact the app is having on enterprise networks across the UK.

Spotify is a free application that enables users to stream music directly to their desktop, without the need to download songs. The free version is supported by adverts played between songs or users can upgrade to the premium service where songs are streamed uninterrupted.

The service is becoming increasingly popular with workers across the UK but there are fears that the service is hogging bandwidth that should be used for bona fide business applications such as CRM systems or even email.

John Cunningham, director of business markets, ntl:Telewest Business said that without visibility into the network it is difficult to know what impact the likes of Spotify and YouTube are having on business networks.

“At the moment when it comes to knowing what data is travelling over their network, businesses are stumbling around in the dark,” he said. “They can see that there is congestion on the network, but not what’s causing it. It’s just like being stuck in a traffic jam on the M25. Organisations looking to manage their network more efficiently are increasingly finding that they require a detailed insight into which applications consume the most bandwidth so that they can modify their network capacity accordingly.”

Application delivery platform provider Blue Coat Systems recently added a plug-in to its network appliance that enables businesses to identify and manage the use Spotify. It enables network managers to limit the bandwidth available to the app, blocking it or reducing its priority to protect the performance of other business-critical applications.

While businesses should be wary of the impact Spotify and other social network sites may have on bandwidth and productivity, banning the use of these apps in the workplace is not the way forward, according to Cunningham.

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“Organisations should consider implementing fair usage policies for social media technologies that take into account how they support the business, whilst ensuring that vital applications and systems aren’t impacted,” he said. “As the industry moves towards a more proactive model of network management, service providers will be unable to ignore the need for increased transparency.”

Since its launch last year, Swedish-based Spotify has gained over six million users, with one million of those coming from the UK. It recently launched a mobile version for the iPhone and Android phones, available to premium subscribers paying £9.99 a month. The app enables users to temporarily store playlists on their phone for playback when no Internet connection is enabled.


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