In the NCAA Tournament, a 16th-seeded team has only beaten the top seed once, and everyone knows that 12 seeds have a lot of luck against fifth seeds. But, in a showdown between your company’s network and employees who are watching at March Madness odds, who is the favorite?

IT Departments Work Overtime in March

Each March, IT departments experience a surge in network traffic as employees watch men’s college basketball games on their work computers and mobile devices, either with permission or secretly. In a world where camera doorbells get hacked and watching movies is safe, anything is possible

According to TEKsystems, a Maryland IT staffing and services provider, 89 percent of IT professionals predict higher Internet usage inside their firms this year as a result of the NCAA Tournament. Fifty-four percent foresee a “significant” or “moderate” increase, up from 46 percent last year.

Furthermore, some of this traffic, according to IT professionals, might put their networks at danger. Sixty percent of respondents expect their networks to be at greater danger in March, up from 47 percent last year.

“The figures were up pretty much across the board in terms of increasing usage at enterprises and higher security threats,” says Jason Hayman, TEKsystems’ market research manager. “I believe that comes with the territory — with the tournament’s greater prominence and better access for workers.”

“What astonished us,” Hayman continues, “was the lack of policies. Two out of five respondents claimed they don’t have a policy in place for this sort of online behavior. This is where IT and HR should collaborate to manage those standards and say, ‘This is what’s acceptable, this is what’s not acceptable in terms of online behavior, especially during working hours.”

How can Companies Handle Extra Traffic?

Companies can handle the extra traffic and danger that comes with one of the most-watched sporting events of the year by implementing policies that offer staff with information on acceptable Internet use. Organizations can prioritize business traffic, ban specific websites, reduce streaming speeds, monitor employee Internet behavior, or even block streaming and sports sites entirely, depending on their level of concern.

While banning everything may seem like the easiest solution, experts caution that this technique has drawbacks. For one thing, it may encourage employees to seek solutions, which may lead them to visit unknown and potentially harmful websites.

Furthermore, some employees may object to their supervisors using content filters to control their conduct. Professionals want to be trusted to get their work done as they see fit, even if they know they shouldn’t be checking scores and watching a triple-overtime play at work.

“Our clients don’t always want to just ban websites because people become offended,” says Branko Miskov, vice president of product marketing at networking firm Exinda. “A lot of businesses are striving to make their workplaces more appealing right now, especially in office situations. They’re offering food and beverages. It’ll be a lot more difficult if you’re known as the company that’s no pleasure to work for.”

During huge events like the NCAA Tournament, Jerome Hernandez, director of information technology for the banking and investing business Alliant Capital, says he monitors network traffic but doesn’t take action unless it becomes essential.

Hernandez says, “I’m looking at the traffic. Honestly, even if people are streaming, my usage isn’t even 50%.” I’m just keeping an eye on the abusers. What work gets done when someone streams for seven hours a day?”

If They Don’t Ban Streaming, What Works?

Instead of outright prohibiting video streaming, some businesses slow streaming traffic to the point where it becomes unusable. However, this strategy may cause genuine job efforts to be disrupted.

Even before issues develop, Hayman thinks it’s appropriate for companies to warn employees that the firm is monitoring their Internet activity. He explains, “The idea is to treat them like business experts. Ask people to be aware that we’re watching their usage, and please use it wisely.”

Organizations may use March Madness as a chance to educate employees about the cybersecurity hazards connected with illicit streaming services and gambling websites, as well as alert them about phishing emails promising high prizes for tournament choices, according to Hayman. Workers will be less inclined to seek out hazardous streaming sites if their employers grant them access to CBS Sports, he says.