Internet Challenges and Considerations

By Jonas Lood - The Internet has changed significantly over the past 15 years. Today we commonly use the Internet to perform searches when we need to know information, transact business and connect with friends and colleagues. Most organizations depend on the Internet in one form or another for their business to operate successfully. Many of our day-to-day lifestyle tasks such as shopping, travel and online banking have been completely automated and are delivered through the Internet. In recent history, no other technology has changed our habits, touched our personal life and affected our economy as intensely as the Internet.

This article will explore key examples of the new developments for the Internet as well as outline several challenges we can expect to face in the future.

Cisco Increasing Internet ActivityAccording to Cisco, 1.5 billion people used the Internet in 2008. The growth rate is astonishing, especially when you look at the traffic patterns. Until 2005 the bulk of the traffic was peer-to-peer networking, web and e-mail. These were relatively low demand applications and required few compute cycles. That is all changing. There are new and innovative ways of using the Internet which are driving demand and increasing traffic. Today, the Internet is commonly used for Video Communications (VC), Gaming and Voice over Internet Telephony (VoIP) applications. On demand Television is on the horizon and it is expected this will mature and become a mainstream application in the next few years.

What types of stresses do all these bandwidth-intensive applications place on the Internet backbone? Since the Google-owned YouTube video sharing service was launched in 2005, it has utilized the same spectrum of bandwidth as the entire Internet used in 2000. Some suggest without significant investment, we may see massive congestion and slowdown. However, experts disagree as to how this will play out. Most bottle-necks will be at the trunk line cut-off, the hand over of bandwidth from the Internet superhighway to the local cable or satellite provider. This issue is commonly termed the “last mile problem”. It could cost service providers as much as $1,000 per Central Office (CO) connection point to ensure high-capacity, fiber-optic cables are installed and made available to consumers. Failing that, individual users would most likely experience Internet congestion in terms of sluggish performance and slow downloads. Recognizing this eventuality, AT&T is spending billions of dollars, twice what it spent last year, to improve its capacity. This is one example of a company that is anticipating a need and allocating resources to address it.  Other Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) will need to follow suit to ensure adequate bandwidth for customers with mission-critical Internet applications.

Anticipating the available bandwidth, businesses have invested heavily in new applications and systems that depend on a functioning Internet. For example, manufacturing businesses manage their supply chains, customer support representatives manage their relationships and the world of international banking transact in real-time, all using the Internet. In 2009, we can see continued growth of Internet services and applications. The workplace will continue to develop in new and innovative ways. Concepts such as “Crowdsourcing” and “Wikinomics” are being explored by organizations in certain industries. Social Networking is also gaining in popularity as more and more organizations are discovering Web 2.0 concepts. Today millions of users are adopting wikis and blogs to exchange business critical information and to transact business. On an individual level, many professionals are using social networking applications, such as LinkedIn, to manage their career and professional relationships. Human Resource professionals and IT managers will need to work closely together to harness the power of these applications. These resources will need to be part of the mainstream marketing plan, rather than viewed as a secondary initiative.

Research and education is another segment that is witnessing significant change. Today, over a trillion individual documents may be accessed for viewing or download. These do not include the vast array of databases from news articles to scientific publications that are also available.  The current Google Book Search project is a collaborative effort between Google, publishers and major libraries to record contents of all books and make them available through searches on the Internet. Do you remember Napster, the music sharing utility that was shut down in 2001? At that time, we were told we could not share, at any cost. Today our perception of online copyright and information access has completely changed. Hal Varian, professor of information sciences, business, and economics at the University of California summarized this phenomenon the best “Back in the early days of the Web, every document had at the bottom, “Copyright 1997. Do not redistribute.” Now every document has at the bottom, “Copyright 2008. Click here to send to your friends.” A few years ago this development would have been looked upon as inconceivable due to patent and copyright laws. We can expect law-makers to introduce a number of amendments to intellectual property laws in an effort to classify how information is shared on the Internet. Internet developers and users will need to remain current on this legislation to ensure they conform to the law.

With increased bandwidth, improved applications and better information access, the Internet of the future will have much to offer. Provided we can scale the growth with application demand, the best is yet to come.

Prescient Digital Media is a group of senior Internet and intranet consultants that provide strategic intranet consulting, planning and communications services. For more information on Internet Planning services for clients please contact us directly.

Also free for downloading:
Good to Great Intranet Matrix
Social Media Checklist – Updated
Finding ROI: Measuring Intranet Investments