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This spring, March Madness Live will bring streaming video to more devices—giving you more great ways to follow the tournament and your IT department more reasons to hate this time of year! Games on TNT, TBS and truTV will be streamed on multiple platforms including computers, tablets and mobile devices for free this year to pay TV subscribers. Games on CBS are again available on digital platforms. Broadcasters will also offer multiple and varied viewing opportunities including full game replays, video highlights and real time game alerts, all with social and interactive components. This could be a long week or two for unprepared IT departments across the nation. 

We hate to spoil the sports fun. But adding high usage of streaming video for non-essential purposes during business hours can put quite a strain on your network, as well as your IT department’s patience. Each on-demand stream requires about 650 Kbps and up to 1.8 Mbps for HD viewing. Sustained, prolonged streaming, with countless separate and simultaneous users—can quickly zap bandwidth, clog network gateways, slow critical applications, traffic and downloads or even crash networks. Last year, streaming March Madness basketball content consumed nearly 18 million hours—many of them during the workday. 

Does your company have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program, allowing employee access to the corporate network and applications using their own devices? If you’re one of the 44.1% businesses that now allow this (according to a recent TechRepublic Business Strategy Study cited in ZDNet), it could add to your bandwidth burden during March Madness. 

In fact, key findings in the NCAA Tournament Survey, The technology side of a national sporting craze, a widely cited 2012 survey of IT professionals sponsored by IT staffing firm Modis, supports many of these concerns. Among those surveyed:

  • 42% of IT Professionals reported March Madness impacted their network, with 37% reporting network lag and 34% indicating complete network stall.
  • 41% reported that March Madness placed a significant extra burden on their network compared to routine network traffic, with 19% reporting a slightly extra burden.
  • 65% said their department takes some sort of action to block, throttle or ban streaming non-work content.
  • 75% believe employees should be forbidden to watch sporting events like March Madness during the workday.

Chances are, employees are going to do it to some degree anyway. So game on. Below are some are some options to help minimize the effects of mass streaming March Madness.

  • First, make sure you’ve established an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for network usage and clearly defined web usage expectations and consequences of violating AUP mandates. Make sure to implement some sort of “BYOD Best Practices/Policy Guidelines” if you have a BYOD program or are planning to have one.
  • Educate users. Many non-technical users are simply unaware of how streaming content affects the network, business-critical applications and overall operations.
  • Consider designating a break room or conference room PC for group streaming. Reducing the number of streams from one per employee to one per office can greatly reduce the network buren. In fact, 45% of the IT professionals in the Modis survey said their company provides an alternate location for employees to view March Madness games.
  • Monitor usage. Enable a monitoring system that collects statistics on traffic passing through the router, such as Windstream’s Intrusion Detection and Prevention System. If you’re experiencing a spike in bandwidth consumption, data can be aggregated into per-conversation views to determine who is consuming bandwidth and how it’s being used. .
  • Consider long-term solutions, such as Windstream’s Dynamic IP, which can prioritize and dynamically allocate bandwidth to critical applications. And of course, many companies are moving to data center cloud, hosting and managed services for robust solutions ensuring connectivity and security.

One final stat to consider: from the Modis study, 29% of IT professionals reported that preparation and execution for March Madness adds stress to their IT work life. So be extra nice this month. Follow the rules. Enjoy the games. Bring the IT department donuts. And reassure them that Cyber Monday (equally taxing on networks) is practically eons away.

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