Should I Block and Filter Internet Traffic at Work?

Many businesses feel that since they are paying for their employees, their PC’s and their Internet connection, they don’t want staff wasting time on social media, shopping, or other distracting sites.  As an IT firm, we get the following question quite frequently from our clients: Should we block Internet traffic?  My answer is typically yes as well as no, and I proceed to explain.   Let’s examine the process:

Of course you want your staff to be productive! Potential time wasters like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should be blocked, right?  I don’t always agree.  While Facebook can consume quite a bit of the workday if used improperly, does your firm have a social media marketing person or department who is monitoring and updating customer feedback?  If so, you cannot take this tool away from employees.   If this is the case, selective enforcement might be the right course of action.

Allowing access to potential time wasting sites may be uncomfortable to an executive who thinks a millennial employee will abuse the privilege, but it’s not without a measure of control.    One option is to allow access to social media, but have your IT department provide a simple report detailing how much time is spent per employee on all sites.  The abusers can be singled out, while allowing other users who respect the privilege and only use during a break or lunchtime to continue that behavior. A few bad apples shouldn’t spoil it for everyone. Once staff knows it’s not a free-for-all, common sense takes over and proper limited use becomes the norm.

Let’s move on to mobile phone use by employees during the day. Some companies block all non-work sites on mobile devices, believing employees cannot access them. In reality, some employees will simply use the apps on their private phone to tweet, text and go on Facebook all day anyway.  This is where proper training and mentoring of your staff to respect the environment is key.  Some employees feel social media and other sites are their right at work and management has no business monitoring what they do on their personal device.  It’s safe to say the issue should be addressed with staff so they are aware of what is and is not acceptable.

Almost any firewall or web filtering solution can automatically block entire categories of traffic as well as block/allow for certain sites.  You can block shopping but allow Amazon or Staples for certain people who are buying office supplies. Another key item to discuss is streaming video and audio.  Some staff working hard may want to listen to an Internet radio station, but this constantly consumes bandwidth on your connection potentially resulting in the dreaded comment “The Internet is slow….”  Remember, reporting is always available to prevent abuse and it’s a good idea to get a report before you decide to simply get the next fastest speed on your connection.

When thinking about whether or not to filter and block internet traffic, take into account the needs of the organization and specific employees. Keep in mind, easy reporting is available to help keep everything in the right balance. For more information, please contact us at 949-462-7001 ext 460 or sales@kmesystems.com

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