What March Madness Can Teach Network Administrators

Analysis: According to a recent MSN survey, millions of employees watching the NCAA tournament online will dedicate at least one hour of work time to follow the event this year, whether it be at lunchtime or during work hours. This is affecting enterprise networks big time.

March Madness is in full swing, and it could impact your company's network, whether you know it, like it or neither.

With 68 teams playing 36 games in the first seven days, the NCAA is forced to schedule the majority of its games during the standard 9 to 5 workday. But that won't stop sports-loving employees from using network capacity to watch the games.

For example, last season Turner Broadcasting System and CBS Sports experienced a 47 percent increase in online streaming. A whopping 10.3 million hours alone were streamed in the first seven days of the three-week-long tournament.

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According to a recent MSN survey, employees watching the tournament online will dedicate at least one hour of work time to follow the event this year, whether it be at lunchtime or during work hours. Making matters worse (for network managers, at least) is that this year's streaming service will be optimized to support more mobile platforms, including Android devices.

As Viewers View, Networks Slow Down

This creates a real challenge for network managers: Network capacity will slow down€”often quite noticeably€”as new devices will be entering the network and productivity will be hampered. This includes folks who travel to the vicinity of a business and log in to surrounding WiFi on a drop-in basis.
It is important to note that streaming and television are two completely different technologies. TV is one broadcast signal that's read by many viewers; in streaming video, everybody gets their own stream connection. Literally, the more watchers a streaming video provider has, the more bandwidth it consumes€”on both ends.

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"March Madness is a special event for network operators, especially this year," Brian Jacobs, senior product manager at Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold (pictured), told eWEEK. Ipswitch is a provider of network management, monitoring, email/messaging, and file transfer software for enterprises.

"If you think about other events, like the NFL [Super Bowl] or MLB [playoffs], those events happen over the course of weeks or months [and mostly are not during business hours]. In the Big Dance, everybody's playing every day [for a relatively short period of time]. And many of those are during business hours.

"Due to the diversity of teams, almost every company is going to have some people interested in watching a game at least some time during March Madness."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...