Thanks to the internet, we’re currently living through a revolution that has changed the way we work. Think back only a few years, when there was no email, no cloud computing and no smartphones. Social media and video calls were still the stuff of science fiction. Today, offices don’t require filing cabinets, franking machines or endless reams of paper. Communication is now instantaneous and even small local companies can have a huge global presence. The internet has changed business practices forever.
Why filter internet content?
But as we know all too well, the internet is not just a business tool. It’s a repository for billions of videos about cats, millions of pop videos, newspapers, magazines, blogs, games, social media sites and movies, not to mention an awful lot of adult content. And all of these tempting nuggets of entertainment can be a distraction for workers in any office. This is why a lot of companies make use of some sort of filtering and content control to ensure that workers stay focused on their jobs. There are reasons this is worth doing, even if your staff don’t like it.
- Surveys have shown that 30-40 percent of all internet use in the workspace is not related to business, and 37 percent of workers admit to surfing the web at work. If you take away some of these temptations, workers will become more productive and your company will profit – which benefits everyone. When you’re a business owner with your eye on the bottom line, you don’t want to pay your staff for a day of writing on Facebook. Filtering lets you recover unproductive work time.
- Filtering internet access can also be vital if you want to avoid legal liabilities. As well as adult content, there are plenty of sites that share illegal files online, and if this is being done through your company’s internet connection you could face legal action. Filtering allows you to prevent access to harmful, illegal and malicious sites while ensuring your workers can access the information they need to do their jobs.
- Even when staff are just using the internet to concentrate solely on their jobs, there are still risks out there from web-based malware and phishing attacks. With filtering tools in place, you can stop viruses before they get into your network and optimise access to the apps which are most essential to your business.
- If your staff are surfing the web, watching videos, downloading files or listening to music, they are using up your expensive company bandwidth. The more videos being streamed, photos uploaded and music played, the slower your company network becomes. A good filter allows you to limit the amount of broadband access supplied to an individual computer so that it can only be used for work purposes.
- Data loss is another good reason to put filtering in place or to monitor what your employees are doing online. Confidential corporate information such as product information, upcoming releases or trade secrets can easily be leaked out online, even inadvertently. Some filters can scan files to find who has access and stop data leaking via emails, USB devices or web postings.
What are my options?
One of the first things you need to do is put an Acceptable Use Policy in place for your staff or students, so that they have guidelines as to what sort of content and sites are acceptable for them to access online. You also need to state the consequences of violating such a policy.
When to block content?
You have to ask yourself what you need from a content filter and its features. Do you want to control what employees see? Is surfing and shopping online acceptable in lunch breaks or after hours? Many filters let you select times when internet sites are blocked, rather than putting a blanket firewall in place.
Some of your staff, or even students, may need access to different domains than others. You may need a content filter that allows you to create user groups and select different websites, thus blocking different sites at different times.
Notifications of what employees, and students are doing online can also be important. You may need a feature that offers auto archiving, or one that keeps you informed when you’re out of the office. Internet searches and screenshots can come in handy if you’re arguing a case with a disgruntled employee or a student accused of cheating.
If your content filtering needs are often changing or you are overseeing many different workstations, staff or students, you may need technical support. Some content filter companies offer online or phone assistance to ensure your filters and firewalls are working and up to date.
When it comes to filtering, it’s worth talking with experts to find out whether a software-based, managed-service, cloud or hardware appliance approach is going to work best for you. Usually it’s a question of resources and specific needs. But what you need to think about is how to strike a balance between finding a solution that helps everyone to work more effectively while getting the very best out of all that the internet offers – safe access in a network that’s protected from outside threats.
Here at Empower IT, we work with some of the biggest content filter providers such as Untangle, who offer a range of services that can meet the needs of most types of organization. What not drop us a line to learn more?