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March Network Madness and Your Business

8 Mar 2016 by Shay Moser
Your Network and March Madness

March Madness is here again, and thanks to our connected world — from smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops — there are many ways to watch it.

Last year’s NCAA tournament saw record high numbers of requests to watch the games through streaming media on devices. The NCAA in 2015 reported more than 80 million streams during the 2015 tournament, up 17% from the previous year. Mobile consumption of its streams also dramatically increased with live video streams and hours of live video consumption both up 20% over 2014. In addition, the NCAA's mobile app set a record for the national championship game with 3.4 million live video streams. We’ll have to keep our eyes on the news for what the streaming numbers are for the 2016 season.

In the meantime, network administrators and those experiencing slow connections, are monitoring bandwidth usage continuously.

Matthew Skaff, director of IT networking at Insight, is well acquainted with March Madness, but he’s no bracketologist. Instead, he and his team are the ones working to ensure critical business functions get network priority and run smoothly. So, events like the Olympics, World Cup, NHL Playoffs and March Madness present some challenges. But Skaff has an easy solution: “Work from home and use the virtual private network to login to work if you can — pending manager approval, of course.”

Since March Madness is a cultural phenomenon that extends past die-hard sports fans and into the collective conscious, network administrators need to plan for the fact that — even with a robust mobility program and supportive managers — a number of devices will be accessing broadband siphoning content from the Internet during tournament game days.

Carlos Sotero, director of IT, data center at Insight, offers this long-term approach, “Segregate data on the network so that business functions get priority. Other network areas can be dedicated to pulling down content so they don’t impact mission critical systems.” And for game day he adds, “Stream games from a couple laptops into a community area. Get some snacks, make it social and take pressure off the network.”

Skaff and Sotero both agree the first step is accepting you’ll never be able to control network traffic completely, and the best approach is to protect critical functions first. Then find ways for people to get the content they’re going to access anyway, whether it’s from a corporate or personal device.

At Insight, we keep March Madness games playing on all the TVs around the office. “A few years ago, we experienced network issues,” explains Melissa Noll, executive assistant senior at Insight. “What we found out was a lot of people were streaming their game on their computers. It is definitely more beneficial to have the games up on the TVs so people can take a glance at the score every now and then.”