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Corporate Users Dive Into March Madness

April 04, 2014 - 2 min read
Here in the ThreatlabZ, we track stats and trends for all Zscaler customers. While our primary focus is on malicious traffic, it's intriguing to also track surges of traffic caused by non-security events.  We weren't surprised to see the NCAA basketball March Madness games cause peak traffic in both the Streaming Media and Sports categories.  There are clearly no shortage of users that participate in bracket-ology.

The graphic below shows the spike in Sports and Streaming data, which shows an interesting bandwidth trend when viewed as a percentage of total traffic seen on that particular day.  To benchmark normal traffic, I also calculated Pre-Madness traffic shown as March 17th. The first two full days of the tournament occurred on Thursday March 20th and Friday March 21st. I omitted the weekend games as Zscaler receives corporate traffic so a drop in overall traffic on the weekend is already predictable.
The typical amount of Sports Streaming data doubles during the first Round.

On Thursday and Friday (March 20th and 21st), the initial two full days of the tournament, Sports and Streaming traffic nearly doubled, primarily due to March Madness. The third round (March 27th and 28th) wasn't quite as popular. Perhaps our customers has already had their brackets busted at that point! The surge in traffic during the opening round is an impressive stat when you consider that Zscaler receives traffic from enterprises all over the world and March Madness is a US based event. A single sporting event, in one country can actually be popular enough that it can cause a significant spike in traffic for a given category on a global scale
User's have more than one way to watch these games.  The use of mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone and Android devices are responsible for a significant portion of this traffic spike as well.  Below is the Sports and Streaming traffic seen from mobile devices during this time-frame.
User's preferred to watch the games on their iPad devices.
While companies may not want to block access to such content, they may also not be aware of the percentage of bandwidth that can be consumed during a major sporting event. It's always worthwhile to keep track of such spikes and ensure that QoS controls are in place to ensure that such traffic is at least throttled to ensure that it doesn't negatively impact business critical activities.
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