Are you coaching your customers to survive March Madness?

Marc Thaler

MSPs can’t look past the possible IT challenges the NCAA Tournament presents their customers. And educating them on what’s at stake is a smart strategy, Marc Thaler writes.

The undefeated University of Kentucky Wildcats have played 34 games, won 34 times, and in the process held opponents to a nation-best 35.5 field goal percentage.

Talk about successfully defending your basket.

March-MadnessWith the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament underway, it stands to reason that Kentucky’s toughest roadblocks in the pursuit of perfection are coming. The Wildcats are six wins from celebrating a 40-0 season, a feat that would make them the first blemish-free national champion since President Gerald Ford occupied the Oval Office (1976). As a result, more eyeballs than normal may be glued to live-streaming smartphones, tablets and PCs while “March Madness” unfolds during the workday.

Many of those eyeballs will likely belong to your customers. So here’s the question: Can you, as a managed service provider (MSP), guard your clients’ networks the way the Wildcats guard their goal?

The job may be more challenging than you realize.

According to the NCAA, the governing body of intercollegiate athletics, last year’s tournament “delivered record-setting video consumption with more than 64 million live video streams across all platforms through the second week” of games.

There are two important takeaways for MSPs to consider on behalf of their customers:

The time frame is important

While the tournament runs for three weeks, it’s the Thursday and Friday of the first two weeks when a slew of games take place during business hours. How many of your clients will be watching?

Online activity may spike – again

Last year’s video-streaming total for that two-week period represents a 40% increase compared to the same tournament window in 2013 (the increase on tablets and smartphones specifically was 71%). The ease with which your customers can access video coupled with Kentucky’s quest makes tuning in more tempting than ever.

Those points, of course, speak to the chief challenge: tournament-related IT risks. Customers may not think about them, but bandwidth consumption and data security can’t be overlooked.

IT talent management firm TEKsystems calls them “technological side effects” of the tournament. The firm, which surveyed 350 IT pros, published this press release stating:

  • 56% of respondents say their company has a policy in place for non-work-related Internet use, but 68% have seen staff work around the rules.
  • 47% anticipate elevated network risks resulting from online activity linked to the tournament.
  • 42% battled a bandwidth drain during previous tournaments.0

This year’s tournament officially tipped off Tuesday night. But the barrage of daytime basketball that defines the three-week event starts Thursday. So, while your customers are comparing their brackets, you should take the opportunity to teach.

It’s never too late to educate.

For instance, remind your customers that it’s a sound strategy to only stream video from legitimate websites. Staying alert for social engineering scams (e.g, emails, tweets) that take advantage of tournament interest is also a priority.

The 2015 NCAA Tournament may cost companies $1.9 billion, according to firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which annually tracks the tournament’s impact on office productivity. Some drop-off in office output is to be expected – college basketball’s crown jewel is too popular to ignore.

Similarly, MSPs can’t look past the possible challenges the tournament presents their clients’ systems.

That’s how networks – much like millions of tournament brackets – are busted.