What We Can Learn About the Digital Age from the COVID-19 Outbreak20 min read
If you’ve read my work in the past, or have seen me speak, you’ll know that I’m a perpetual optimist. Even in the hardest times, I’ll always try to find even a sliver of a silver lining. But we do have to talk about the reality of today’s situation.
I keep hearing that this is our ‘new normal.’ But what happens when this new ‘normal’ feels anything but normal? It’s hard to settle down, people are getting less sleep, and the extrovert in me is screaming for human interaction. Working in the technology space has given me a unique view into just how critical our operations are to the world. We at Switch house, maintain, and deliver some of the most critical system that you rely on every single day. This includes collaboration tools, productivity tools, and even content that you might be streaming in the background.
But even all of that is under stain. Not so much at Switch, but it’s something I’m definitely seeing in our industry. So far, networks and telecommunications platforms across the US have been hold strong even with usage spikes. But, will this last?
“To be honest, I think we just don’t know the answer,” said Jon Sallet, a senior fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and a former general counsel at the Federal Communications Commission. “But that’s something the FCC should be asking the nation’s broadband providers and telling the American people the answer.”
A recent CNET article pointed out that in a week-over-week comparison, Verizon said voice usage between March 12 and March 19 on its network was up 25%. And total web traffic was up 22%. The company said week-over-week usage patterns showed demand for streaming video services, like Netflix and Amazon, have increased.
To better support this increased traffic, Netflix and Amazon Prime agreed to a European Union request that streaming services switch from high definition to standard in an effort to reduce the strain on the internet, as previously reported by CNN and the Guardian. Apple is doing the same with Apple TV+, as reported earlier by 9to5Mac, as is Google-owned YouTube.
Facebook recently did the same thing with Facebook Live videos, which it says are seeing record traffic. In fact, the social network said in a blog post that “usage growth from Covid-19 is unprecedented across the industry” and that it’s “experiencing new records in usage almost every day.” This has apparently left Mark Zuckerberg feeling trepidatious.
“It really is a big technical challenge,” Zuckerberg told the New York Times. “We’re basically trying to ready everything we can.”
We’ve gone from 4K to Standard Definition
In their latest press release, ATT stated that over the last few weeks, they’ve seen new and vastly different mobility traffic patterns set in. In the last three weeks, here’s what ATT has seen on their mobile network alone:
- Voice calls:+33%
- Instant messaging: +63%
- Text messaging:+41%
- Web browsing: -5%
- Video: +4% (also accounts for over half of all mobility traffic)
And on the other hand, how businesses and schools are communicating has steadily increased the usage of conferencing tools, which are at an all-time high. Here’s what they’ve seen over the last few weeks:
- AT&T’sglobal audio-conferencing solution: +200%
- Audio, web and video conferencing tools: +400% more minutes
- Large-scale webcast events: +200%
It’s quite possible that you’ve noticed it at home as well. Mashable said the average constant broadband download pace in the United States decreased from roughly 140 to 133Mbps in the week of Mar. 16, as compared to the week of Mar. 9. Over that equal period, mobile broadband download speed went from approximately 75 to 72Mbps. Some heavily impacted areas with dense populations have actually seen their speeds decrease by upwards of 38 – 40%.
A Lot of New Remote Workers
What’s been super interesting to follow has been the major influx of remote workers. Some of these folks have never had to take their work home and are certainly not used to the process. This also means that security and trust must be re-defined as new applications and services request access to centralized cloud and data center resources.
If you’re working from home, be vigilant. Secure your sessions, make sure your VPNs are up and running and don’t click on links you’re unsure about. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean your machine might not have access to a corporate network. This is a time for you to stay away from two different types of infections… one is COVID-19, and the other is ransomware.
If you’re this far down into the blog, I plead with you to ask your technology friends (me included) any and all questions you might have about your ‘new normal.’ We’re here to help you, advise you, and make sure you’re as safe as possible. Security technologies exist to help you stay productive while still staying secure. It’s not an ‘or’ conversation when it comes to security and good user experience, it has to be an ‘and’ type of architecture.
So far, I’ve learned that technology is resilient, and that technology companies want to be your ally. This is absolutely the case at Switch as we actively monitor the state of our infrastructure, our community, and our staff. I’ve also learned that we can rely on technology, even in social distancing, to stay connected. It goes without saying that the way we communicate, especially today, has changed forever. However, unlike previous times of social distancing and economic challenges, you do have the option to video chat, call over WiFi, or do a video collaboration meeting. No, it’s not the same as giving your teammates a hug; but this is literally the best we have right now.
Side note and a small piece of advice for all of you doing Zoom, GoToMeeting, RingCentral, or other types of meetings. A new trend has been emerging where people will ‘drop in’ uninvited into collaboration meetings. Some have coined it ‘ZoomBombing.’ Yes, it’s a real thing. My good friend Dane Young, founder of Youngtech, found out the hard way when a meeting for his IT COVID Task Force was, let’s say, interrupted by some unexpected guests. His Zoom meeting post now reads: “For security reasons we will not be posting the Zoom links publicly! Inside joke for anyone that was there for the first meeting.”
With that in mind, do not share your meeting links outside of the people you’re planning on meeting with and, for added security, simply add a password to your meeting sessions. This way, even if someone has the link, they can’t access your session.
Working Through the Unknowns
I wish I had a better way to wrap up this article. Personally, it’s been super strange not to have any travel planned or any conferences to go to. But I have been spending more time with my daughter and my parents (who live about a block away from us). I’ve also seen more families outside, spending time together. I’ve read how pollution rates are dropping, and I’ve read how wildlife is returning to areas that aren’t seeing a lot of traffic. Like dolphins returning to a bay because there are less ships, for example.
The work that my organization is doing is deemed essential. We will continue to show up to work so that you can connect with work, your friends, and your family. We’ll continue to support people and businesses the best that we possible can. But remember, we’re also trying to keep you and our teams safe. So…
Stay home, if you can. Support those on the front lines as we work through this pandemic. And, most of all, be kind.
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Immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to monitor, manage, and maximize the power and cooling infrastructure for critical data center environments.
Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch | Industry Analyst | Board Advisory Member | Writer/Blogger/Speaker | Executive | Millennial | Techie
Bill Kleyman brings more than 15 years of experience to his role as Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions at Switch. Using the latest innovations, such as AI, machine learning, data center design, DevOps, cloud and advanced technologies, Mr. Kleyman delivers solutions to customers that help them achieve their business goals and remain competitive in their market. An active member in the technology industry, he was ranked #16 globally in the Onalytica study that reviewed the top 100 most influential individuals in the cloud landscape; and #4 in another Onalytica study that reviewed the industry’s top Data Security Experts.
Mr. Kleyman enjoys writing, blogging and educating colleagues about everything related to technology. His published and referenced work can be found on WindowsITPro, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, AFCOM, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot and more.
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