World Cup mania could generate an Internet traffic overload next month to rival those caused by the Heaven's Gate suicides and Princess Diana's death. However, well prepared enterprises shouldn't fear gloomy predictions of football-mad workers bringing down the network.
Football fans accessing World Cup sites from the workplace could bring ill-prepared corporate networks to a standstill according to Stephen Dunford, managing director of X-CEL Communications, maker of Web performance analysing tools.
"If you're giving people freedom of access to the Internet this is going to happen. What you decide to do really depends on the relationship you have with your workforce. Because people want the latest news they'll log on during the game and depending on what capacity the network managers have in place the network may not be able to handle the increase in traffic. If they're using a performance management tool they can look at the pattern of usage to determine what kind of capacity they need."
Currently the official World Cup Web site, www.france98.com, is drawing thousands of hits every day. This is expected to rocket during the tournament while non-official sites are also vying for attention. While in theory this could cause a traffic jam on the LAN the reality is that much depends on the condition of the network including available bandwidth and the server.
"It depends on the caching," said Mark Cooke, Internet strategist at UUNET UK. "A spike in demand could cause LAN congestion and it is possible that it could slow down the connection to the Internet. But most large networks have servers with more than enough caching and communications bandwidth to cope."
It's a view supported by Andrew Birch, international operations director for NetKonect, a UK provider of backbone services. "I'd be very surprised if there was an overload on networks due to World Cup traffic," he said. "Corporates won't have a problem. Most probably have more bandwidth on their intranets than you can get for the Internet. There is no doomsday scenario here and it may not become an issue anyway as most companies will probably block access during working hours."
"If you don't have network caching there could be problems," said Tammy Deuster, European marketing manager at Internet software designer Inktomi which created the search engine used by MSN and HotBot. "If you have a 1000 people wanting to look at a particular page, it just takes one to get the information from the site and the other 999 can read it from the cache in the local server. As long as there is sufficient internal network bandwidth, there shouldn't really be a problem."