It's always interesting when another University hits the press - and any interest is usually accompanied by a sigh of relief that it's not us. This week it's the turn of Oxford University who have banned the use of Spotify on their campus network, and made it into many papers and web sites, but I think the news first broke on the University Student newspaper site. It interested me for a number of reasons - the first being that I use Spotify a lot, and am often to be heard using it to listen to music while I work. It's legal, only offers up adverts about every 20 minutes, and seems to use very little bandwidth. In fact, although we have nearly 25,000 students and assume many of them use it, it forms a very small part of our traffic - it doesn't even merit its own classification and is lumped into "miscellaneous". The big bandwidth usage comes from flash video and YouTube, and I can't imagine banning them.
So - why have Oxford chosen this application to ban? Well, I assume (although I could be wrong) that as their University Computer Usage Rules state that unauthorised use of peer to peer networking software is forbidden, and as Spotify is classed as peer to peer, it's banned. Were they right to do it? Well, it is obviously their decision and they have to do what's best for their network and users, but I do have my own opinion!
I think University IT departments have to embrace and facilitate the use of new technology - we should no longer be the gatekeepers, banning things because they use our precious resources. We will be fighting a losing battle if we try to do so - new things will always appear to replace the things we ban. How many of us tried to ban Skype because we were worried about the security issues and bandwidth use? Now it's a common way of communicating. Yes there are bandwidth issues with more and more services coming on stream, but with good monitoring and traffic management you can ensure that one type of traffic doesn't degrade the service for others.
I'm always depressed when I speak to people outside of our sector where access to social networking sites and other social media is banned - I really hope Universities never go down that route. The IT department as the department that likes to say "no" should be a thing of the past.
Edit: Just to confirm what I said in this post about Local Authorities...