Hurdles are associated with track and field, a sport that commands the spotlight every four years at the Summer Olympics. But make no mistake: For 17 straight days starting February 7, the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will also have its share of impediments – and it’s hardly exclusive to the athletes.

IT administrators everywhere, pay attention. If digital media’s impact on the most recent Winter and Summer Games serves any indication, you will soon have your own version of hurdles to clear. Why?

Three words: productivity, bandwidth, security.

Thanks to the Internet and proliferation of mobile devices, the Olympics is covered around-the-clock and easily accessible on a variety of platforms. Did you know 22% of respondents to a recent GFI survey often use employer-owned computing devices for matters unrelated to work (38% on occasion)?

The bring-your-own-device movement – also known as “BYOD” – may be the MVP of the Winter Games for workers. But even if they follow intermittently, the amount of lost work time over 17 days may be mind-boggling.

A bandwidth drain can also hinder the most diligent workers that won’t succumb to the onslaught of Olympics coverage. Multiple co-workers watching the same video feed can slow a network, affecting other key aspects of business communications such as corporate email and users’ experience with a website (i.e., slow page-loading).

Cybercriminals and spammers also seek to capitalize on the Games’ appeal. The strategy is hardly new; the 2010 World Cup and 2008 Beijing Olympics dealt with this dilemma. The difference is hackers and malware have grown far more sophisticated, forcing IT administrators to remain vigilant. (GFI’s survey found that 43% of respondents used a mobile computing device for connecting remotely to the company network. The financial and legal ramifications for companies whose business intelligence is leaked or compromised ranges from inconvenient to catastrophic.)

As with anything that involves some level of risk, it is critical to apply common sense. Remembering this mantra, applying it, and implementing a comprehensive web monitoring solution will serve small to mid-sized businesses well. Here are a few suggestions to help IT administrators prevent an unrealistic drop in productivity, keep bandwidth usage under control, and ensure corporate networks remain secure:

  • Teach (or remind) employees about web browsing best practices. If a search produces a link that isn’t familiar, don’t click it.
  • Track employee web browsing in real time. Even workers with the best intentions may stumble into a sticky situation.
  • Block websites that consume considerable bandwidth for video and audio files. Similarly, blacklist websites that could jeopardize security or raise legal red flags.
  • Set policies that enable employees to browse specific sites at defined times of the day, for finite lengths of time, or until a certain amount of bandwidth is used.

IT administrators that follow these steps can become office heroes – especially if they strike a balance that enables employees to responsibly enjoy a bit of Internet freedom.

Whether the boss awards a gold medal is a different story.