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IT Departments Prepare for March Madness Headaches

March Madness Causes Headaches for IT Professionals

March Madness Causes Headaches for IT Professionals

The NCAA Basketball Tournament, commonly referred to as “March Madness”, is an exciting time for many, even those who don’t typically follow men’s college basketball throughout the regular season. Countless pools running in the office and with friends and family make the tournament a fun and exciting event to follow—but not for IT Professionals charged with managing corporate networks.

Starting in the second week of March and extending through the first week of April, the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament ranks as one of the most popular annual sporting events in the country.

March Madness Causes Headaches for IT ProfessionalsUnlike most other sporting events such as the Super Bowl or other major playoff or championship games that occur over a weekend or outside of normal business hours, the NCAA tournament is different, and many games are played during standard business hours during the work-week.

Curious and anxious fans, perhaps with some money at stake, often attempt to monitor their teams or watch games in real-time online while at work. The high consumption of bandwidth sucked up by streaming video in organizations can put significant stress on network routers, firewalls and other security appliances, making March Madness is a stressful season for IT professionals, says IT staffing firm, Modis.

In response to the increase in streaming content, some IT departments institute procedures that block or slow down web video, typically known as “bandwidth throttling.” According to the results of recent survey of 500 IT professionals commissioned by Modis, 42 percent of IT professionals say March Madness historically has impacted their network. Of those affected, 37 percent said their networks have slowed down, while 34 percent report March Madness activity has essentially shut down their networks at some point.

This year the is offering “NCAA March Madness Live“, an interactive digital application that allows viewers to watch all 67 games of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament live on a computer, iPhone, iPad, or Android phones for $3.99. CBS will also stream many games online for free.

While March Madness can be tough on corporate networks and suck up valuable company bandwidth, many IT departments are prepared for the risks it can pose to their networks. According to the survey, 65 percent of respondents report their department takes action to slow or block streaming video. Almost half (45 percent) said their company offers workers an alternate location to watch games.

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Other discoveries revealed by the survey include:

IT professionals keep an eye on employees –  To protect the office network, 42 percent of respondents say they monitor employees who are trying to access March Madness video streams. A smaller number (27 percent) simply trust employees to be honest and not visit sports sites while at work.

IT departments in different regions handle streaming content differently – IT departments in the South are more likely than those in other regions to not take any action against streaming content (58 percent) compared to the Northeast (14 percent), Midwest (27 percent) and West (26 percent.)

IT professionals’ personal opinions also vary by region – Three in four (75 percent) IT professionals say employees should not be allowed to watch sporting events like March Madness during the workday. When divided by region, IT professionals in the Midwest (49 percent) are less likely to feel this way compared to other regions (96 percent in the Northeast, 79 percent in the South, 75 percent in the West.)

March Madness can be maddening to IT professionals – The preparation, execution, and consideration for March Madness season adds stress to the lives of 29 percent of IT professionals.

Network stability is a key reason for blocking content – Of respondents, 82 percent block streaming content primarily to maintain a stable office IT network, while 71 percent do it to remove any distractions in the workplace.

The employee/IT relationship is still healthy –  Though 54 percent of IT professionals often or sometimes receive feedback from employees complaining about their content-streaming, or specifically March Madness policies, 71 percent still believe employees find their respective content-streaming policy to be fair.

“With the increasing popularity and availability of streaming video, it has become easier than ever for workers to watch sports games at their desk—and March Madness is a time when streaming sports content consumption is at an all-time high,” said Jack Cullen, president of Modis. “It’s an event that boosts office morale and builds camaraderie for many American workers, but it can put a significant burden on office networks, and the IT professionals responsible for maintaining them.”

“To ensure that the office network remains operational for the workforce as a whole, IT professionals need to make tough decisions,” said Cullen. “In the end, a fully functioning network with streaming video restrictions is better than no network at all. When users can’t access the web, it’s the IT department who has to be on task to fix the situation.”

The survey was conducted between February 8-17, 2012 by Braun Research on behalf of Modis. Results have a margin of error of +/- 4.4% at the 95% confidence level, Modis said.

Written By

For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.

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