With high speed internet being used in most businesses, employees have access to information whenever they need it. While there are certainly business benefits in utilizing the Internet, this can also provide for a diversion from their daily tasks reducing productivity and potentially putting the business at risk for inappropriate online behavior. In progressive work environments, employers may allow some latitude with non-business internet access, but at any level, this takes away from employee productivity as well as creating potential for inappropriate usage or unwanted network traffic.
Some employers have included an “Internet Usage Policy” (IUP) for employees to sign as part of the hiring process. This is an agreement outlining the acceptable ways that the Internet can be used. There are online samples of IUP’s however we recommend working with your attorney to create one as they will be most familiar with the local laws.
An IUP provides a guideline on how internet access should be used for business purposes, as well as defining the process for handling employees found to be in violation of the policy. In addition, such a policy would also inform employees that their online usage and related content is subject to monitoring at any time. This puts the policy in written form, but relies on the employee to properly interpret the intentions of “responsible internet usage”.
While this is a good first step and establishes a baseline for appropriate use, there are those employees who either do not understand or do not respect the terms of an IUP. Also, there are online resources that may contain legitimate business content, but may either link to sites or content that would not be considered acceptable. Additionally web sites can contain imbedded malware or other security risks.
With the overwhelming popularity of social sites like Facebook and Twitter, people are spending much more time online and sharing personal information that may not be in the best interest of the business. Some businesses and even educational institutions are making it a condition of employment that employees do not to post certain types of information on social sites. The line between business and personal information online has become less structured. For example if an employee is linked to your company Facebook or LinkedIn profiles it may expose their personal information to customers, suppliers and other business colleagues.
There have been instances of employees being fired for using their work internet connection to post comments on social media sites. An employee of the non-profit organization Coats for Kids in Chicago was terminated in January 2011 because of his commentary posted on Facebook. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCH33TgK8Mw)
A recent survey done by Salary.com shows that 44% of workers who responded, cited internet usage as their top way of wasting time while at work.
As a countermeasure to protect a business network from employee abuse or unintentional misuse of internet resources, many businesses have implemented web content filtering. This technology places controls on the types of resources that can be accessed online through the business Internet connection. Controls can be placed on specific web sites or categories (like blocking adult content or job sites).
A web filtering solution can also provide insight into:
o Time spent online by employee.
o Bandwidth utilization by employee.
o Websites that employees are accessing and how much time was spent.
Web content monitoring and filtering can provide valuable insight into how your business is using your internet resources, as well as maintaining protection of your business assets.
Anna Fassano, Founder and CEO of A. Fassano & Company was concerned about how employees were utilizing the Internet. She also wanted to be proactive in controlling the types of online content that could be accessed from the business network. We worked with Anna to implement a web filtering solution by Barracuda Networks, a leading provider of this technology (Barracuda Web Filter).
“We needed to get a better handle on how the Internet was being used and be able to identify any inappropriate usage so we could address it. We also wanted to be proactive in placing some controls on how the Internet is used.
The Barracuda Web Filter gave us feedback right away on Internet usage. It also made the topic more visible the company discouraging any inappropriate use. It allows us to control the sites users can access by web address and by category and allows us to place more restrictive controls on users who need lower levels of access to the Internet.
As the principal I feel better knowing these controls are in place and that we are using the Internet for business purposes.”
In addition to the data that can be collected and the greater visibility of the solution to the end users, the intuitive management interface, makes it easy to adjust settings as business needs change. General Manager and Co-Owner of DCT Industrial Supply Company, Julie Gahwiler, also utilizes a Barracuda Web Filter.
“Barracuda Web Filter allows me to control and monitor the web activity of my employees. The software is very easy to navigate, even for someone without an IT background. It is important to me as a company owner for my employees to be productive, but even more important is that they are protected from unsolicited information in the work place.”
There are many options for web content filtering, and Beringer Associates can help you improve your employees’ productivity, as well an gaining an understanding of how your internet resources are being used. Click here for more information on web filtering solutions.