What Small Businesses Can Learn From the Winter Olympics

Small Businesses Can Learn From the Winter OlympicsThe technology might not have been around for long but it’s amazing how quickly people have become accustomed to being in constant contact with their friends, family and businesses, no matter when or where they are in the world. This rapid and widespread adoption of smart devices and applications at home has just as quickly raised expectations of connectivity at work – meaning that, within a few very short years, infrastructure investments have gone from small, low-key implementations to company-wide initiatives that deliver the best communications experience for all staff, at all times.

One of the best demonstrations of this urgent need for constant and rapid communications is at international sporting events. Last year’s ‘Murray Mania’ at Wimbledon saw an unprecedented spike in social media activity, with over a million people tennis-tweeting over 2.6 million times.

This was a good preview of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, an event expected to generate a similar spike in social activity and in a place where very little of the vital infrastructure had existed before.

In less than two weeks, 5,500 Olympic athletes and 25,000 volunteers (not to mention thousands of spectators) will be descending on the town. As the official supplier of network equipment to Sochi 2014, Avaya will be welcoming the myriad bandwidth-hungry devices that the Olympic family bring with them, ensuring they can connect seamlessly, even if they’re all downloading and uploading at the same time.

It was clear to us from the beginning that communications would be vital to the event’s success, and therefore the network will play a crucial role in ensuring the media, athletes, officials, and volunteers can share their excitement with their friends, families and the billions online.

Though this example is certainly a tech implementation on a grand scale, the philosophy and challenges surrounding the Games can in many ways be applied to far smaller business deployments.

So, how did we go about building the network?

  1. Hyper-connected generation – First things first, with thousands of devices in use daily by the Olympic family, creating a secure (Bring Your Own Device) BYOD environment was our primary consideration. We would need to be capable of identifying and granting access to a wide range of user groups while simultaneously ensuring stable, protected bandwidth and preventing any and all security breaches. Small businesses the world over are finding it increasingly important to adopt tools that will allow the network to determine the identity of each of their users, their status in the organisation and the type of device they are connecting with, thereby granting the correct type and level of access. As we are already doing with many business customers, Avaya is addressing this at Sochi by using a tool that assigns network access rights and permissions based on a user’s credentials and role (media, athlete, IOC official), and where they connect from (Olympic village, competition venues, etc).
  2. A Lean Approach to IT – Secondly, it was important for us to remember that the Olympic organisers now rely more heavily on partner organisations, meaning there was a need for a network that could be simple to deploy and operate but also flexible enough to adjust new services on the fly and with fewer IT resources. This is a core challenge facing many small businesses today with a growing trend towards outsourcing coupled with tighter IT budgets.
  1. BIG data – It has been predicted that the video streaming on mobile and tablet devices is likely to make a breakthrough for the first time during the event. The new network will experience demands never before seen at a sporting event and this means that the infrastructure we put in place had to be more secure and robust than anything we had built before, capable of carrying vast loads of data and coping with huge spikes in traffic during the major events. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are faced with this increasing amount of multi-media content that has similar ebbs and flows throughout the day and all will soon be in the process of assessing their networks to ensure they realistically have the capacity to manage this demand.
  1. Site logistics – Most companies are familiar with the various logistical challenges that must be faced when building networking infrastructure. Employees are quickly beginning to expect to be able to continue working from their home, on their holiday and in the local coffee shop and so businesses must be prepared to provide an effective and secure network that can deliver seamless access across multiple locations. The Olympic events in Sochi will take place in two clusters where there has traditionally been little infrastructure in place – a mountain and a coastal area – with a range of new venues being built to host the events. This meant the network not only had to be built from scratch but it also has to provide seamless connectivity and consistent quality of service across all venues.

The seemingly insatiable appetite for cutting-edge technology is a challenge impacting infrastructure investment at all levels. Whether this is in terms of logistical hurdles, security issues or bandwidth demands, whatever the size and scale, all businesses will quickly need to put in place a clear and effective strategy that will enable them to achieve the goal of a flexible, secure network that is capable of meeting the demands, not only of this hyper-connected generation but also of the next.

Simon Culmer is the Managing Director of Avaya for the UK. Avaya is the official provider of network equipment and services to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

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