Is it your IT administrator who needs to sort out all of the bandwidth issues? Is it your employees who want to access work-related resources on the web and cannot because of people streaming March Madness games?

The NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Championship, AKA “March Madness”, is a major distraction in U.S. workplaces every year. The tournament kicks off March 19, with the busiest tournament days occurring on Thursday, March 21 and Friday, March 22 during standard business hours (beginning at 9am ET).

It’s only natural that employees’ level of interest is high when there is so much focus on the tournament in such a short span of time. Employees who are following the tournament closely are highly likely to turn to the Internet to stay up-to-date on the latest news and scores. With so many websites available to follow the tournament, it is very common for employees to watch live streams of games, listen to audio commentaries, view game highlights on ESPN and others, search for the latest results and stories, and participate in other related activities while at work – all of which are likely to cause a significant disturbance in three ways:

Bandwidth bottlenecks

With multiple users streaming content simultaneously, the available bandwidth is easily taken up. This can have a severe impact on other applications which are dependent on the Internet, such as VoIP, CRM, email and other cloud and Internet-enabled applications. Typical streaming content consumes 10Mb of data per minute. Multiply that by a significant number of employees and you can see why a bandwidth spike creating a bottleneck is inevitable.

Productivity loss

With games held during regular business hours, many users will be following results as they happen. This major distraction could severely impact productivity over the course of the tournament.

Security problems

Hackers have always used high interest stories and trending topics as lures to infect users’ machines. March Madness is no different, and it is almost certain that cybercriminals will use the tournament to trick unsuspecting users into falling for fake websites, SEO poisoning, phishing and other malicious scams.

To manage these problems, companies need to be prepared to enforce Internet usage and web filtering best practices, including:

  • Informing and educating employees about the effects associated with March Madness and giving them browsing tips that will help to address these challenges – e.g. advising users to avoid streaming live games, to be cautious of which websites they visit and to avoid clicking on links that come from an unfamiliar source.
  • Implementing web security software that:
    • Automatically blocks malicious websites and ensures any websites visited are free of malware. A point to note is that an anti-virus engine alone is not enough to stop all threats – a dedicated web security engine is now also a must.
    • Allows you to define bandwidth quotas, such as limiting downloads from streaming media websites to 100Mb a day, and limiting visits to news, media and sports sites to 30 minutes per day.
    • Blocks websites which could pose legal liabilities, such as gambling websites.
  • Setting up action-based alerts to anticipate problems before they develop and take the necessary action to immediately remediate issues as they rise.

Allowing employees to follow March Madness activity in the workplace can boost employee productivity, motivation and morale in the long run – but their web browsing has to be controlled. Uncontrolled usage of the Internet can result in serious issues, not just during the March Madness tournament but throughout the year. Luckily, there are advanced tools available to help IT balance the negative impacts of non-work related browsing with the need for employees to take a break, de-stress and stay motivated.

 

If you’re interested in a good web filtering solution, take a look at GFI WebMonitor.

You can download a free trial for 30 days. It’s worth a try!