Cricket could turn IT networks to ashes

IT managers have been warned to take action to avoid their networks being hit for six by cricket-mad users

IT managers be warned — cricket fans could wreak havoc on your networks over the next few days.

Network management company Network General warned businesses across Britain this week that the final match of the Ashes series could overburden their networks as large numbers of staff log onto online radio sites.

The match began at The Oval on Thursday, and could chew up Internet connections and potentially cripple company computer networks; a scenario that could cost UK companies an estimated £300,000 per hour, according to Network General.

This is England's best chance of winning the Ashes for 20 years, which has created huge demand for up-to-date news. On the opening day of the fourth Test two weeks ago, 2.2 million people visited the BBC Sport Web site, compared to the normal weekday average of 1.5 million.

Online radio also proved to be popular. There were nearly 500,000 click-throughs for the stream of the BBC's venerable Test Match Special (TMS) broadcast for the first two days of the first Test, according to the BBC Web site.

The high-quality version of the TMS radio feed is around 42kbps, so a company with a large number of users listening simultaneously could see its LAN or Internet connection come under much greater strain than usual.

Network General estimated that as few as 10 employees secretly logged on to live commentary could potentially reduce the network performance in an office by 50 percent, potentially costing firms millions in lost trading and service repairs.

London's financial district has been singled out by Network General as the biggest potential hotspot, largely due to its traditional cricketing ties.

After England's performance against Northern Ireland on Wednesday some football supporters could turn to the cricket for a morale boost, leading to the problem also arising in other firms in the UK.

"While every company is aware of the risks posed by computer viruses, few will have ever considered Ricky Ponting and Michael Vaughan's men a potential threat to their computer networks." said Stuart Beattie, head of international marketing at Network General, in a statement.

"Firms need to recognise that people will always want to keep up to date with big sporting events and as such need to think ahead to minimise the potential risk of employees bringing their businesses to a grinding halt," Beattie said in a statement.

Network General gave six tips to avoid network overload. It said that chief technology officers should constantly monitor network performance and provide extra network capacity to tech support.

They also suggest limiting the amount of network bandwidth available to non-business applications, and blocking employees from logging onto key sites, although they acknowledge this is a trifle unsporting.

More general management tips given were that managers should inform employees of potential problems caused by too many people listening to the dulcet tones of Christopher Martin Jenkins over the Internet, provide alternatives such as radios or televisions for staff, and encourage staff to use online scoreboards instead.