Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maddening It Pros Battle to Stay on Top as Workers Jam Networks to Catch NCAA Games

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maddening It Pros Battle to Stay on Top as Workers Jam Networks to Catch NCAA Games

Article excerpt

As city traffic formed a sluggish caravan toward Consol Energy Center, impatient drivers could find solace in a survey that says congestion could be even worse for people trying to stream the NCAA men's college basketball tournament from jammed Internet service networks.

Video streaming and other bandwidth-sucking activities associated with March Madness have made tournament time one of the most maddening periods of the year for the country's IT professionals. According to a survey of 500 of them, released March 5 by Jacksonville, Fla.-based IT staffing and recruiting company Modis, 42 percent said March Madness has impacted the networks they administer in some measurable way.

Issues are compounded for those managing networks that do not block or throttle streaming video, with 55 percent saying their networks were impacted, 48 percent saying network speed was affected and 43 percent saying March Madness activities completely shut their networks down.

Twenty-nine percent of all respondents said "preparation, execution and consideration for March Madness season" brings stress to their work day.

Modis president Jack Cullen wasn't surprised by the results, considering the ways productivity is affected offline during the tournament.

"I know there are a lot of extended lunch hours, a lot of people are taking one or both days off to watch the tournament. It's almost taken on a life of its own," he said.

The majority of IT professionals surveyed -- 65 percent -- said their department blocks, throttles or bans streaming content that isn't job related, but 42 percent also said they monitor employees' online activities to stop the worst offenders.

UPMC Health System, which features a network of more than 51,000 computers, blocks access to specific events that could lead to heavy video streaming rather than banning the practice altogether. The Downtown company has blocked March Madness video streams since 2009.

West Penn Allegheny Health System also blocks March Madness video streaming, but doesn't completely block employees' from keeping up with the games.

Eric Molitor, vice president of technology operations, said the organization "proactively monitors" the more than 10,000 computers in its network to ensure events such as March Madness aren't being streamed at a level that will interfere with hospital operations. When the organization noticed a surge in people attempting to stream live tournament action last year, it blocked Cambridge, Mass.-based video streaming service Akamai rather than the NCAA website.

"We won't block the actual NCAA site, we'll block the streaming component so that they can still check scores or update their brackets without streaming," Mr. Molitor said.

Timing, he noted, can be a critical factor that makes March Madness video streaming a headache. …

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