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    March Madness Comes to IT

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    Top 10 Network Tips to Prep for March Madness

    Beginning Tuesday, a lot of IT organizations are suddenly going to start noticing some unusual traffic patterns on their networks. With the start of the NCAA Basketball tournaments, a lot of people will be tuning in over the Web during working hours to watch games that will be played during normal business hours.

    In fact, a new study from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a provider of outplacement services, suggests that 2.5 million people will spend 90 minutes a day watching basketball during March Madness. Challenger estimates that with private-sector workers earning an average of $23.29 per hour, employers will end up paying distracted workers about $175 million over the first two full days of the tournament alone.

    The can put a lot of pressure on IT organizations. For example, if more than half the company winds up streaming video across the corporate network at the same time, chances are that application performance will fall sharply. Combine that with lost productivity and it’s not hard to see how suddenly a little recreational activity during the day can becomes a significant problem.

    Naturally, IT could just simply turn off access to sites such as ESPN.com. But that might be a little draconian and, frankly, IT organizations don’t need to do anything that would make them any less popular with end users. Instead, Brendan Reid, vice president of product marketing for Exinda, a provider of wide area network (WAN) optimization appliances, says IT organizations should be making use of technologies that allow organizations to apply policies that limit who can view what at any given time on the corporate network. That way, the business has more granular control over the environment just in case things get out of hand, especially when all it takes is a single user streaming a video to consume up to 30 percent of a T1 connection.

    Of course, employees may just decide to watch the games using their smartphones or tablets to access wireless services. In that case, they’re not working at all, which is why Nick Cavalancia, vice president of marketing at Spectorsoft, says organizations need tools that actually keep track of who is logged into what applications at any given time. Cavalancia says its software can even tell when people have applications in the foreground, versus when they are watching a video, while making it look like they are working by running, for example, a customer relationship management (CRM) application in the background.

    In an ideal world, employees would respect the limited resources most IT organizations have to work with. But seeing as that doesn’t happen as often it should, maybe it’s time organizations not necessarily stop the madness, but at least put some restraints around it.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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