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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Acceptable Internet Use

Much concern has been raised by many business owners, about how to handle inappropriate Internet use at work. Frankly, I'm not sure they're concerned enough. Let's look at some interesting statistics. Now mind you. these statistics are from 2006, but I think we can safely presume the situation hasn't gotten any better:

Stats are from the LocalTel Business Content Web Filter site.

  • 64% of employees admit to using the Internet for personal interest during working hours.
  • 70% of all pornography traffic occurs during the nine-to-five work day.
  • 60% of all online purchases are made during working hours.
  • 37% of at-work internet users in the US had visited an X-rated Web Site from work.
  • 37% of employees report searching for jobs online at work.
  • 27% of Fortune 500 companies have defended themselves from claims of sexual harassment stemming from inappropriate e-mails and Internet use.
All this results in an estimated 30% - 40% loss of productivity. And this doesn't even consider the effect of the bandwidth spent on this and other things like streaming audio, which could impact even the performance of the users who are trying to use the Internet for business purposes.

In cases where employees download pirated software, music or videos, the businesses could be found liable - even if they didn't know about it.

And that's not even to mention the lawsuits that can be brought, particularly if the material is sexual in nature, against the company if a hostile workplace suit is brought.

Bottom line: You need to protect your business.

How? Well, there are a number of components to this, and technical solutions can play an important part of it. But the most important piece, and the one that most businesses - especially small businesses - don't do, is to put an Internet Acceptable Use Policy in place. This is a policy that explains what is and is not acceptable, and the consequences of non-compliance. If the employees don't have such a policy, they can always claim they didn't know it wasn't okay. Click here for some sample policies.

Once the policy is made available, there are technologies that can be put into place to help monitor and safeguard access. Systems can be as rigid or flexible as the company feels appropriate, while still being protected from inappropriate use.

Keep your business safe!