How Does a Company Block Websites From Employees?
By Fraser Sherman
Computers can make workers more efficient, but they also offer new distractions. Sitting in front of a computer, an employee may be revising a report, doing some shopping or downloading porn. Some companies rely on the honor system, setting up an Internet policy and trusting their employees to follow it. If a company wants to place greater restrictions on computer usage, it's legal to do so.
Watching the Internet
The lowest level of control is to let employees access the Web, but monitor where they go. Companies can buy software such as NetSpy, Work Examiner or Spytech that monitors activity on the network and lets the business know which sites employees visit. According to Tech Republic, some managers feel this is less Big Brother-ish than actually banning sites. Other businesses prefer restricting access to certain websites to snooping on their staff.
Some companies block sites by setting the hardware to respond to certain keywords. For example, Netgear's firewall router can be set to block 32 different keywords. If the network administrator puts "XXX," "Amazon" or "sex" on the list, the router won't let employees visit websites with those words in the name. The administrator can even set the router to ban everything with a COM suffix, so users are limited to GOV, EDU and similar official sites.
In addition to wasting time, employee Web-surfing can also use up bandwidth. Watching videos at work or playing games online, for instance, can slow down the upload and download speeds on the network for everyone else. If a company's primary concern is bandwidth, it can buy software that tracks and controls the amount of bandwidth each computer uses. If a particular desktop is hogging the bandwidth, the software can force the employee to cut back.
Companies have to juggle the practical advantages of keeping employees off dating and shopping sites with the resentment employees may feel if they're denied. Tech Republic recommends, for instance, that companies ease up controls during Christmas season, when employees have lots of online shopping to do. Microsoft Business says monitoring and focusing on a few problem employees may be more productive than trying to oversee every worker's online activity. Each business has to set its own priorities.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.