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Bracing for NCAA tournament traffic

Live streaming video feeds could derail corporate traffic, vendors say

By Ann Bednarz, Network World
March 19, 2009 12:08 AM ET
Ann Bednarz

It's that time of year again: March Madness.

Companies with solid bandwidth management technologies in place can sit back and relax, while those without such measures are left to wonder how much network performance will suffer once employees start viewing live NCAA games at work (just as they did during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing).

The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament kicks off today. Every year it gets easier for employees stuck in the office to view the games online, streamed live to their desks (unless of course their employers have taken steps to curb such recreational use of company bandwidth). And every year vendors warn IT teams about the implications of unfettered access.

Traffic to popular college basketball Web sites like NCAA.com and CBSSports.com increased more than 10,000% during last year’s tournament, according to numbers from ScanSafe. The security vendor looked at 240 billion Web requests performed on behalf of its corporate clients in 80 countries.

“The amount of corporate bandwidth used to view these basketball games during work hours is astonishing,” said Spencer Parker, ScanSafe director of product management, in a statement. “Most employees don't know the bandwidth impact of these streaming sessions. Companies are literally losing millions of dollars to college basketball in March.”

But sluggish applications and slow file transfers aren’t the only problems for IT teams. Companies need to be aware of the potential for malware infection, ScanSafe warns. Cybercriminals have a history of latching on to high-profile events like the Super Bowl, and March Madness could be a target.

According to some reports, it’s already happening. Cybercriminals are poisoning top Google search results for queries such as “March Madness schedule” and “March Madness brackets” to lure users into visiting fake antivirus sites, reports SCMagazineUS.com.

Still, the most devout fans will find a way to catch the games, even it if means finding an old-school TV.

For Apple smartphone devotees, there’s even an iPhone app for it: CBS Sports March Madness On Demand is now available from the App Store. The $5 app streams every NCAA tournament game to your iPhone or iPod touch over Wi-Fi, Macworld reports.

What are you doing to protect business critical traffic? As always, your comments and ideas are welcome. E-mail me.

Read more about lans & wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

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