Staff web usage: To filter, or not to filter…

Whether or not to filter and monitor employee web usage has long been a dilemma for many an SME.

Some companies, especially those with small teams, like to trust their staff and take a relaxed attitude. Others prefer to micro-manage what their employees are doing.

Many managed service providers (MSPs) take a fairly passive attitude towards Web filtering and monitoring.

If a client requests it, they are happy to oblige, but they perhaps don’t take a particularly proactive approach to selling it into companies where it’s not viewed as a priority.

If this applies to you and your MSP business, you could be making a mistake – and missing out on revenue.

Monitoring and filtering Web use isn’t just about controlling and micro-managing staff.

Consider the following:

1. Staff “abuse” of the Internet can have consequences that go beyond the fact that businesses are paying employees to waste company time. If staff use the Web for immoral or illegal purposes, the legal implications could have an effect on the business itself.

2. Most companies eventually land themselves with a “bad” employee. Web monitoring can prove a very useful tool for HR if a company needs to proceed down a disciplinary route.

3. More and more hackers are switching to phishing and social engineering as a way to breach security. In recent years, criminals have even begun to specifically target small businesses with persistent attacks of this nature. Web filtering can protect less “astute” staff from falling victim to these attacks.

4. Once companies become used to having the ability to regularly review what their employees are doing online, they generally wouldn’t want to return to the days before they had access to the information. Web filtering and monitoring is as much a management tool as a function of the IT department.

5. Web filtering is about far more than checking staff aren’t spending all day on Facebook and Twitter. IT-savvy staff could be using BitTorrent to download movies, risking copyright infringement notices and slowing down the Web connection for legitimate uses.

Perhaps the best way to tackle this issue as an MSP is to begin to discuss Web monitoring and filtering as something that should be seen as an essential. Its implementation needn’t be handled in a draconian way.

For example, there’s no need to really block anything if a company prefers to maintain a relaxed attitude, though of course blocking access to illegal sites and those that may have been compromised should be a given!

A basic implementation like this, along with a well-written monitoring policy, is enough to give companies the power to keep a watchful eye on staff, and give HR a way to have a quiet word with employees who may not be behaving quite as should be expected.

Monitoring and filtering solutions are not particularly expensive, and you only need glance through the list above to find a selection of sales “hooks” for customers.

So if you’ve not been proactive in selling these solutions, start to treat them like any other “upsell.” Then just wait for the revenue to roll in.

By Ben Taylor, GFI MAX Staff Writer

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