March Madness Causes Headaches for IT Professionals »

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — March Madness may be an exciting time for college basketball fans around the country, but it is a stressful season for IT professionals whose job it is to maintain network security and functionality. In fact, in a recent survey of 500 IT professionals conducted by Braun Research on behalf of Modis, 42 percent of IT professionals say March Madness historically has impacted their network. Of those affected, 37 percent report their networks have slowed down, while 34 percent report March Madness activity has essentially shut down their networks for a period of time.

Starting in the second week of March and extending through the first week of April, March Madness is the NCAA’s Men’s Division I Basketball Championship. It ranks as one of the most popular annual sporting events in the nation. Because many games occur during standard business hours, fans often attempt to monitor their favorite teams real-time by watching the games online at work. The increase in web usage can put added stress on the stability and operation of office networks.

In response to the increase in streaming content, some IT departments institute procedures that block or slow down web video. Other IT professionals, specifically those who do not block or slow down/throttle streaming content and video within their organizations (35 percent) say March Madness has impacted their network (55 percent) with 48 percent saying it has slowed it down and 43 percent saying it caused their network to shut down.

“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.”

Many IT departments are already prepared for the risks March Madness can pose to their network. According to the survey, 65 percent of respondents report their department takes action to hinder or prevent the consumption of streaming video. This includes blocking streaming content (64 percent), throttling/slowing down streaming content (64 percent), and instituting a company policy that bans streaming (62 percent). Perhaps to help mitigate disappointment among employees, almost half (45 percent) of IT professionals say their company offers workers an alternate location to watch games.

Some other findings 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. Interestingly, 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.
– Networks are vulnerable during other online activities. Throughout the year, there are other key moments and web activities that cause concern for IT professionals. Respondents said networks can be negatively impacted by Cyber Monday/holiday shopping (43 percent), general daily usage of social media sites (42 percent), as well as major tennis championships (37 percent).
– 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.

“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.”

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