When it comes to Internet usage at the office, there is no real guide for how to deal with it. Each business will address personal and professional Web usage on a sliding scale of deny or allow in most cases. Others are attempting to mix the two and offer some flexibility. Unlimited access to the Web can be both a positive and a negative to a business. We spoke to one vendor who deals with this to get their perspective.
As mentioned, there are positives and negatives to allowing unlimited access to the Web in the work place. On one side, social media is a huge deal these days, as it allows networking and customer connections much faster than before. Social media can also be used as a valuable sales tool, and several major players use it to generate millions.
The downside has always been productivity. Any IT manager who has ever had to lockdown YouTube because of bandwidth drain can attest to this, and the management who ordered the lockdown likely did so because the staff was spending more time watching videos than working.
Yet, this isn’t always the case, and there is some solid evidence that allowing access to social media or the Web in general can help morale and productivity at work. For this reason, most businesses adopt a mix of access policies and rules for the staff to follow.
However, creating rules and endless policies are one thing, enforcing them is another matter entirely. Currentware, one of the many vendors who deal with Internet usage and control, recently spoke to us about what they are seeing in their vertical markets, as well as some of the temptations that employers deal with on a daily basis with regard to Internet usage.
“What we’re seeing as a company right now, with the advent of social media, is a lot of talk about how companies can manage this. Do they totally restrict social media in the workplace? Do they limit it to some degree? Can they benefit from it? Do employees have a right to use social media? We think it’s all of the above,” said Currentware CEO Jay Lakhani.
“We firmly believe that totally closing the door [to Internet access] is almost counterproductive. Because what employees end up doing is finding other ways of going the Internet.”
So what Lakhani and Currentware suggest to clients is a middle ground approach. This middle ground is partly the reason behind the development of their BrowseControl product. [Overview]
What it does is allow access to sites based on domain or time of day. It also allows network administrators the ability to monitor and track what Internet usage is doing to help the company. For example, allowing marketing complete access to Twitter, while only allowing sales access during the lunch hour and after 5 p.m. There is also the layer of security where Web traps such as embedded Iframes leading to malicious content would be blocked, as they are not on the allowed list of domains.
For a business, the Internet offers entirely too much value for it to be completely denied to employees. Not to mention, there are examples from Lakhani’s clients that prove that the middle ground approach is working. Businesses like Honeywell and Raytheon use Currentware to get the control they need to let employees access the Web, while keeping things in check, avoiding things like network issues and productivity hits.
So why does Currentware’s approach and products matter? They are not the only ones in the market that can offer control and access for Internet usage. We went with Currentware when researching Internet usage because they are a small business that isn’t well-known in larger IT circles.
One thing that makes them stand out from others is how flexible Browse Control can be. The modular aspect of it allows for central control and remote management. As mentioned, it can block Internet based on site or time, and allow access for the same criteria.
However, there is also email control, port filtering, download filtering, IM session control, and more. Each option can be granularly controlled, with the same middle ground suggestions Lakhani believes in. One interesting thing we noticed would be great for teachers in a lab environment, which enables them to lock a system from the command console.
The other aspect is price. This is what stood out the most when talking to them about what they offer, and comparing them to other vendors. A permanent license will cost about $1500 USD for 100 computers for a business. Volume discounts lower the cost per system, and educational licenses are based on a different price scale that tends to be far less than the commercial license cost. Once purchased, the deployment time is about ten minutes.
“Every company functions differently and will require their own individual Acceptable Use Policy based on how much internet access they want to allow their employees. Certainly, the corporate world needs to be aware of the Internet in the work place as a distraction and as a security threat but there needs to be a balance between the internet as an enemy and the internet as an essential business tool,” reads a recent whitepaper on Currentware’s stance on Internet usage.
However, the actual usefulness of BrowseControl is better seen in action. This is another thing that makes them different - they give away 50 licenses for their 30-day demo. If this is something you’ve been researching, a testing environment of 50 systems for free isn’t a bad deal.
You can learn more here.