Post by Hunter Bonner

The internet is a great place, is it not?  So much information on a wide variety of topics.  For many of us, our entertainment has been shaped, if not, totally replaced by the internet.  Sites like YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, et al are great places to huddle around for our entertainment along with news sites for our enjoyment and enrichment of information.  However, can unrestricted access to the internet be a problem?  The answer is: yes it can be! And a business, no matter how large or small, should take steps to filter what sites its employees have access to view. 

Some might wonder what the risks of having unfettered access to the internet are, especially in a place of business.  These risks are significant and they are real.  First, having no restrictions on what sites your employees can go to means exactly that.  They can go anywhere!  News sites, video sites, file sharing sites, sites with objectionable material such as adult content, all accessible to your employees.

If an employee were to go to a site with adult content for example, the first thing you have to contend with is viewing explicit material not only on company time, but also something that someone else could see and take offense to.  There are many stories all over the web about employees who do this and a colleague sees it and next thing you know, you have an HR situation.  Human Resources situations are nice when you are hiring a bunch of people for a growing company.  Not so much so when you are having to deal with a negative situation such as the one mentioned here.

Another reason why you might want to consider a web filter for websites, is that really, that employee is there to work, and not to watch the latest funny video from cyberspace.  If they can put that much time into watching things like that, then perhaps they have enough time to do what they are supposed to be doing.  You know?  Work?  To quote internet sensation Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Web filtering is also a practical, and really, necessary solution to protect a company from finding itself in potential legal situations.  If you have been even a casual follower of the news surrounding music and video downloads on what are known as “file sharing sites”, you will know that music and film studios are cracking down on this, and doing so with the full letter of the law.  Programs like “Bit Torrent” are habitually used to download full feature movies and music, and most of the time without paying money, which means it is illegal.

Many of the companies in the entertainment industry have employed legions of technology companies designed to track and trace every single illegal download of their intellectual property.  Having an environment where employees can download, install, and access these sites is just asking for trouble.  Should something ever be traced back to you, most likely you will get a nasty-gram from their lawyers and if it continues, you could be fined.  If you are using hosted solutions, like a network center, you could wind up with them cancelling your contract.  Then what are you going to do?

So now you are convinced that you need a web filter, but which one to get?  That depends on the size of the organization.  If you are a business with 50 or less employees, a consumer web filter like Net Nanny will probably get the job done.  However, if you have more employees you will probably want to go with a more centralized managed solution.  Companies like Symantec, McAfee, Barracuda, etc. have solutions for businesses that allow you to filter sites based on content, site name, IP address, and more.

Web filtering is not just an excuse for dropping the hammer and being a totalitarian business owner.  Rather, it’s a necessary means that businesses can utilize to protect themselves and their employees from reckless and inappropriate web usage on their corporate network.  In conclusion, no matter your business size, you might want to consider investing in a web filter today.

Danielle Longueville