Will IT bother to block NCAA tournament traffic?

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

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