The company keeping your YouTube streams from crashing

The fate of your Zoom happy hour may depend on one Massachusetts-based company.


May 1, 2020

You might not know it, but the fate of your Zoom happy hour probably depends on one Massachusetts-based company: Akamai. 

Akamai is in the global content delivery biz, which is a fancy way of saying: Its 275k+ servers, secured across 136 countries, are a big reason why the web stays afloat.

15% to 30% of all traffic skids through Akamai’s servers, and 400 banks and half of all Fortune 500 companies depend on it. 

Lately, Akamai has been stretched to its limits. While web traffic usually grows 3% a month, in March alone, it jumped by 30%.

Akamai is throwing up the yellow light

To keep the internet humming, some companies — like Netflix and YouTube — have opted to knock down their streaming quality in busy markets. 

Akamai also has a few tricks up its sleeve. For one, the company slows down video game downloads during peak hours. 

Yet ruptured supply chains and walled-off national borders mean that some of its usual pivots — like building a bunch of new servers — are distant fantasies right now.

But Akamai (accidentally) prepared for this 

Here’s the thing: Over the course of a normal year, traffic is never steady. Depending on the season, there are regular peaks and valleys.

Akamai is always on the lookout for potential traffic spikes. And this year, the company scaled up its servers in anticipation of the summer’s European Football Championship. All of the streams and post-game highlights, it predicted, would create a broadband surge. 

The championship is postponed for a year, but as far as Akamai is concerned, that extra infrastructure is coming in clutch. 

So the next time you’re streaming Westworld without any glitches, remember: You have European soccer to thank.

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