In the best shape of their lives and sneakers on, the moment they've been preparing for and stressing over has arrived. The NCAA tournament. And as real-time streaming data shows, the IT department at your office was smart to have gotten ready.
As surely as we'll see posts next week talking about how many billions of dollars were wasted by employees utilizing the many ways to watch March Madness online, the past seven days have been filled with articles about network managers double-checking bandwidth and figuring out how to block access to NCAA.com. Unfortunately for them (but not you), it doesn't look like it's working very well.
The NCAA's live feeds are hosted by Akamai, an early pioneer in streaming video over the web. The company has a number of tools that allow a peek at how busy they've been on Day One of the tournament although, as Senior Public Relations Manager Chris Nicholson told The Atlantic Wire on Thursday, licensing agreements prevent the company from sharing exact numbers. (Though he was quick to stress that the company wasn't seeing any performance issues.)
Akamai's global traffic map indicates that overall web traffic is about 25 percent above normal right now — including a big spike in Europe. An article in the Guardian today explains the growth in popularity of NCAA basketball on the continent. Here's what traffic looks like in the United States. The percentages over cities indicate how much more traffic they're seeing than normal.
How much of that is driven by the NCAA streaming all of its games? While Nicholson wished he could share the "amazingly fascinating" mechanics that function behind the scenes — worth remembering that he works for Akamai's public relations department — he instead pointed to other online tools that offered more specificity. One of them, Akamai's Net Usage Index, allows you to view traffic by content type and region. Here's traffic in North America at the time of writing — as a wave of games was finishing, and so was the work day on the East Coast — for "Media and Entertainment," the category into which Nicholson suggested the NCAA streams would fall.
That's heavy traffic — 46 percent above normal. At the same time, Europe, where games aren't as widely televised, is 67 percent above normal. Earlier this afternoon, Akamai was serving over 2.9 million live streams simultaneously.
Those numbers started to drop quickly as games were ending and so did a lot of work days. You can expect that traffic to spike again Thursday night and certainly throughout Friday.
And if you're one of the unlucky employees whose IT department successfully locked down NCAA access, please review our guide to getting around that. Can't tell you how it works, but it's amazingly fascinating.