With 4.8 Billion people estimated to tune in for the Football World Cup this year, it's shaping up to be one of the most watched events in sporting history. And with the tournament spanning over a month, with some key games taking place during weekday afternoons, it's fair to assume people across the world will be tuning in at work.

While recent technology like on-demand live streaming makes it easy to watch the game from your desk, if too many co-workers start streaming the match beyond the infrastructure's capacity then the office network could start to see some issues.

What happens when you stream TV from your work computer?

Traditional TV uses a multicast principle, where one single media stream is delivered through terrestrial, satellite and cable formations and then displayed on all TV sets or computers. In contrast, on-demand TV, delivered over Internet Protocol (IPTV) works slightly differently. Instead of a single stream for millions of users, each viewer has their own personal stream. This is what allows you to freely pause, rewind and download the matches at will. While this creates a great user-experience, a typical office network may struggle with the demand. If many people are watching the match simultaneously, the office's bandwidth is going to lag and connectivity for everyone, not just the football fans, may be affected. To make things worse, viewers will then start refreshing the page, adding another request to the server. In other words, your local network will become congested.

To avoid network congestion, routers should be configured to perform Order Queuing and Quality of Service (QoS). The biggest challenge in setting up this configuration comes down to understanding the properties of your company's traffic. For example, if you only have 100Mb capacity, you could cap activity such as downloads and one-way streaming to 90Mb so you will always have 10Mb free for low-latency activity such as your sales VoIP calls and web conferences.

The difference between your home network and office network is the firewall, which prioritises important activities and deprioritises the less important ones. This also means that if your offices' low-latency tasks exceed the allocated 10Mb they will still take precedence over less important tasks.

The solution

So let's get back to the question at hand: could an influx of people watching the World Cup crash your office network? In short, it's extremely unlikely. You would need A LOT of people to be watching on an unconfigured network. However, if you are worried, there are a few precautionary steps you can take:

1. Make sure your IT team (or external IT support provider) have pre-configured your firewall, to ensure low-latency tasks with high bandwidth have the highest QoS and vise-versa

2. Consider upgrading your company’s internet connection to a 100Mbps or 1Gbps ‘leased line’ – just remember, to shop around and check the small print

3. Rather than pretend it’s not happening, just bring a TV into the office and turn it into a shared experience for the whole office – just don’t forget to buy a TV license for the office!

While the World Cup may be an extreme example of office networks being put under pressure, as more and more companies move services into the cloud or data centres, the need for faster (and reliable) internet connections is becoming an operational necessity for many businesses. The big providers are often great at headline-grabbing special offers but don’t always deliver on customer care or reliability. If you are looking at upgrading, consider at least one or two independent ISPs – you may be surprised not only at their level of knowledge but also their competitive rates.