IT Departments Brace for March Madness at Work

Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange
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Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange

A stressful time of year is about to tip off in many offices. With college basketball's year-end tournament season getting under way this week, a survey by Braun Research on behalf of Modis finds that businesses are preparing for added stress on their office IT networks as employees log onto video-streaming sites to watch games live.

More than 40 percent of the surveyed IT professionals said March Madness historically has impacted their company's network. Of those, 37 percent report their networks have slowed down, and 34 percent report that employees’ game-watching has essentially shut down their networks for a period of time.

"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."

The study shows many businesses are taking steps to keep employees from watching the games. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said their company's IT department takes some sort of action to hinder or prevent the consumption of streaming video, including blocking streaming content, slowing down streaming content and instituting a company policy that bans watching streaming content.

Forty-two percent of those businesses surveyed monitor employees who are trying to access March Madnessvideo streams, in an effort to protect the office network.

While keeping their network up and running was the primary focus, 71 percent of those who block access to the live games are doing it to remove workplace distractions.

The four weeks of games takes its toll on IT professionals, according to the study. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed said the preparation, execution and consideration for March Madness seasonaddsstress to their lives.

To help mitigate the problem, nearly half of IT professionals say their company offers workers an alternate game-watching location.

"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 study was based on surveys of 500 IT professionals.