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Sports Applications Technology

The March Madness Microcosm of Internet Management (or Lack Thereof)

March 19, 2012


Here are just a few not-so-random numbers to consider: 3 million; 26.7 million; 3.4 million; 10.3 million; 203 percent; 2:45 p.m.; 533,000.

Why? Because they represent what’s coming your way in the next few weeks – a huge wave of streaming media crossing your Internet connection. According to CBS Sports, in 2010 more than 3 million people viewed 3.4 million hours of streaming, online, live broadcasts of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Then, in 2011, those numbers exploded: 26.7 million visits to Turner Sports and CBS Sports online NCAA Tournament properties. 10.3 million hours of live streaming video were consumed via the NCAA March Madness on Demand product, representing a 203 percent one-year increase in streaming hours consumed.

Think about that for a moment. When you consider the increase in mobile devices, access to broadband, and attitudes in general about accessing rich media at any time, in any place, the cause of this surge becomes clear, and it ends up not being all that surprising. Still, it puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Lest you make the mistake of wondering how this applies to you, think for a moment about when these hours of streaming media are consumed – the majority of the tournament happens during the day, during work hours. In fact, CBS Sports reports that 2:45 p.m. Eastern is the peak moment of consumption; 533,000 streaming hours in 2010 alone were consumed in a five minute period of time starting at 2:45 p.m. Eastern; 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. was the hour of greatest consumption.

But this is just a once-a-year occurrence, right? Maybe a few days for a couple of weeks, and then it’s done, and back to business as usual. Your hope maybe that you can keep all this traffic from bringing your Internet connection to its knees with some quick blocking of March Madness on Demand. Then it will all blow over.

Except that it won’t. Here are a few more numbers: 51 percent; 3 percent; 2 percent. Here’s what these numbers tell us: while March Madness is temporary, it’s just a microcosm of what happens across your Internet connection all year long. Cymphonix data shows that on average in 2011, 26 percent of organizational bandwidth was used just for streaming media. And, 51 percent of organizational bandwidth in 2011 was spent on “recreational” traffic, that’s to say, traffic that had absolutely nothing to do with running the business or operations. Further, that bandwidth represents a 3 percent growth from 2010 – and this is after total bandwidth usage has gone up year-over-year.

Here’s where it gets complex – while these two numbers represent streaming media and recreational bandwidth respectively, these days streaming media isn’t always recreational, and recreational is so much more than just watching video or shopping online with a browser. You know all too well the complexities of Internet usage, with applications, mobile devices and browsers accessing multifaceted traffic types, some that are business critical and some are not. Then there are all the “unmanned” devices like copy machines and even postal meters accessing the Internet. In short, there’s an astounding amount and variety of traffic crossing a given organization’s Internet connection. Some of it is important to running operations. Some of it is absolutely critical. And some of it is like March Madness.

This is where the last number – 2 percent – comes in. Cymphonix (News - Alert) data from 2011 shows that less than 2 percent of traffic coming across an organization’s Internet connection is inappropriate or a security threat, and therefore, must be blocked. What does this have to do with the topic, you ask? Simple – while addressing this type of traffic is crucial, this traffic only represents a tiny portion of what Network Administration has to be concerned with. This wasn’t true ten years ago. Ten years ago, let’s just say that times were simpler. Sure, there was streaming media and recreational traffic. But it wasn’t much, it was easy to identify, and more importantly, it was easy to just shut down.

Flash forward to 2012, and for more than a decade, the industry has been so focused on blocking threats and inappropriate traffic that it has ignored the growing behemoth of traffic that doesn’t get and can’t be blocked. That behemoth is the complex, multi-faceted traffic mentioned earlier. And it’s just going to keep growing as organizations plow forward to Cloud and hosted services, as streaming HD media becomes ubiquitous, as the consumerization of IT brings changes to individual attitudes and organizational culture that policy management as we know it will not be able to keep up with. And your job is to manage it all. Lucky you.

While investment in crucial, operational access to the Internet grows exponentially, it’s on you to make sure it all works seamlessly and without a hiccup. And you are supposed to do it with a filter? Or by cobbling together a variety of expensive, disparate products that don’t share and correlate data, let alone share an interface?

Fortunately, these aren’t your only options. Today, you can deploy effective Internet Management products and strategies from a small but growing number of companies, like Cymphonix. We offer a single interface with full analytics and policy management across all traffic, regardless of port or protocol. Having full control over all users, applications, and web activity is essential, especially in an era when simple block and allow policies are no longer adequate. Dynamic bandwidth allocation depending upon the user, the application, the content, the time of day and the location, for instance, is what most of us need today.

Like other innovative players in the marketplace, we recognize that what really matters these days is the ability to take all your complex data, show you exactly what it is, who’s doing it, how it works, and then give you the power to easily and effectively manage it – whether its during March Madness, Cyber Monday (News - Alert), Royal Weddings, or the crucial business that happens across your Internet connection every day.

As Director of Marketing for Cymphonix Corporation, Brent Verhaaren is focused on bringing solid Internet management solutions to the market. He has written on a variety of topics covering the security, healthcare IT, and e-learning sectors. His work has been recognized by organizations like the Business Marketing Association and the International Academy of the Visual Arts.

Edited by Jennifer Russell