March hoop tournament brings madness to IT administrators

March means more stress on your corporate network than a last second three-pointer for a game-winner

As the NCAA collegiate basketball tournament tips off this week, March Madness is not just reserved for the court. Because if you are one of thousands of IT network managers across the United States, March means more stress on your corporate network than a last second three-pointer for a game-winner.

Network administrators can expect, on average, a 30 percent increase in network traffic as employees download streaming video on their desktops, laptops, iPads, smartphone and any other BYOD they have stowed in their sports bag. The challenge for haggard IT folks is to understand the impact March Madness traffic will have on their networks and proactively address potential issues before they face significant events.

Being able to monitor and control network access is an easier task for those organizations that still maintain in-house operations. They can throttle the flow of network traffic across the enterprise to meet demand,  even shutting down access to certain online areas that may contain videos, games and questionable websites. But it is more difficult for the growing number of companies that farm out cloud-based business and operational applications. They no longer control the pipeline.

In a recent survey conducted by Modis, a global IT staffing firm, four of 10 IT administrators admit that the results of increased NCAA tournament video streaming and other content downloads will have an adverse impact on their networks. What’s even more frightening is that 34 percent say that March Madness traffic will virtually shut down their networks at least once. The survey also reveals that many companies not only plan to increase their monitoring of the hoops traffic, but block all related content.

Yet with potential disaster comes learning lessons according to some IT managers. They insist that if you head into the tournament madness with your own game plan you can not only manage your company’s traffic concerns, but also increase organizational morale.

Matt Bolton, senior manager for Dell Network Management, suggested 10 tips for IT network administrators in a recent feature on IT Business Edge that could not only put you in control of the network, but provide your department some brownie points with HR.

  • Ensure there’s a corporate policy in place to allow streaming (don’t block access).
  • Stress test many network routes to get ahead of issues on the big day.
  • Dedicate bandwidth on one network just for streaming.
  • Prioritize internal mission-critical apps, like email and payroll, throughout the weeks of March Madness.
  • Make sure external business-critical functions, like file collaboration and online services, are also prioritized on the big day
  • Prepare re-routing plans if the network does become sluggish.
  • Beef up security and virus protection – as employees bring their own devices (BYOD) to the office, the odds of spreading a virus increase.
  • Proactively analyze traffic and identify bandwidth hogs in real time.
  • Track response time, availability and uptime of key apps, like intranet and email.
  • Set up a central office location for employees to gather to watch the games.

With more than two out of five internet users visiting sports sites at the office during the tournament, having a proactive network traffic plan that is also a winner with fellow employee’s figures to be a good approach.