Will IT bother to block NCAA tournament traffic?

65% of IT pros take some sort of action to block, throttle or ban streaming non-work content

Every year when March rolls around, so, too do the dire predictions of network-clogging effects from employees who stream NCAA tournament games at work. But do CIOs and IT managers really care if college basketball lovers sneak a peek using company resources? It turns out they do, according to survey data from IT staffing firm Modis.

Every year when March rolls around, so, too do the dire predictions of network-clogging effects from employees who stream NCAA tournament games at work. But do CIOs and IT managers really care if college basketball lovers sneak a peek using company resources?

It turns out they do, according to survey data from IT staffing firm Modis.

March Madness has a real impact the network, say 42% of the 500 IT pros polled by Braun Research on behalf of Modis. Of those whose companies have been affected by streaming video traffic, 37% say their networks have slowed down because of March Madness activity, and 34% say it has essentially shut down their networks for a period of time.

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To prevent disruptions of legitimate work, 65% of IT pros take some sort of action to block, throttle or ban streaming non-work content. Fortunately, the extra work is manageable: 71% of respondents say the preparation, execution and consideration of March Madness doesn't add stress to their IT work life.

Here are some of the other key findings of the Modis survey:

* Traffic management methods vary: Among those who take action to curb game watching, 64% block streaming content, 64% throttle/slow down streaming content and 62% have a company policy banning streaming non-work content (multiple responses were allowed). In addition, 42% of IT pros monitor employees who try to access March Madness video streams.

* Some companies ask for compliance: Not all IT departments try to block or slow down Web video. Roughly 27% rely on the honor system, and simply ask employees not to visit sports sites. The percentage is even higher in the Midwest, where 39% of IT pros rely on the honor system.

* Employee productivity concerns are less urgent than network concerns: The two most common reasons for blocking streaming content are to maintain a stable network (cited by 82%) and to remove distractions in the workplace (71%).

* Sanctioned viewing is fairly common: 45% of IT professionals say their company offers workers an alternate location to watch games.

* Policies vary regionally: IT departments in different regions handle streaming content differently, Modis notes. IT departments in the South are more likely to not take any action against streaming content (58%), compared to those in the Northeast (14%), Midwest (27%) and West (26%).

* IT pros' personal opinions also vary by region: As a whole, 75% of IT pros say employees shouldn't be allowed to watch sporting events like March Madness during the workday. By region, however, IT pros in the Midwest (49%) are less likely to feel this way compared to other regions (96% in the Northeast, 79% in the South, 75% in the West).

* Complaints not uncommon: More than half of IT pros (54%) are accustomed to getting verbal or email complaints about their content-streaming or March Madness policies.

"March Madness is a time when streaming sports content consumption is at an all-time high," said Jack Cullen, president of Modis, in a statement. "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."

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her email address is abednarz@nww.com.

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