A common reason often given by school technology departments for blocking a particular Internet resource is that it uses too much bandwidth. YouTube, Google Video and Images, and iTunes are among those sites often singled out.
If any district in Minnesota needs to conserve bandwidth, it is probably ours. Mankato's 7000 students and 1000 staff all share a paltry 14MG pipe from the district's WAN to the Internet cloud. And we use our connection pretty hard. When the Internet is slow, we do hear about it.
Just a fair warning here, I will be speaking somewhere between 5 and 50 miles outside my areas of expertise. As my IT manager likes to remind me - "Your role in the department is pointy-haired boss, remember?" So, caveat lector.
We installed a packet shaper on our network last year. What our packet shaper (or traffic shaper or layer seven switch) allows us to do is prioritize traffic on our network. We can tell the network to allow some websites or some Internet protocols "to go first" and delay other websites and protocols. Until last week, this seems to have made only a small difference.
But the degree to which we can specify what traffic has priority became more granular with a recent software release. We can now give YouTube (not all Flash) a "Priority 0" rating. The yearbook people can use Flash to do their pages unimpeded; middle school kids can look for videos of fart lighting on YouTube with what bandwidth is left over. (Click on the small image at the left to see a larger version of the control module screen shot.) This has made a big difference.
So, if your district is blocking valuable educational resources because of bandwidth limitations think about using a packet shaper. (Since people will ask, we paid about $15K for ours in a consortium purchase.)
I'm thinking of changing our department's mission statement to: Providing solutions to problems that you didn't have before there was technology. Like it?