Disadvantages of Using the Internet for Business
By B. Steele
Many books, professional journals and websites laud the role the Internet plays in modern business. Unfortunately, the Internet can also be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, necessitating a solid IT acceptable use policy regardless of company size. However, with a little end-user education and diligence, you can minimize the impact these negative factors have on your business.
Even the most conscientious worker is tempted on a daily basis by the myriad distractions available on the Internet. You can pull up an online gaming website just as easily as your company intranet page. Personal email accounts are another potential time sink, with some providers even offering desktop pop-ups to alert users of new mail. Social media sites such as Facebook as well as hobby websites pose additional distractions from work-related activities, as do Internet radio and video streaming sites. Employees watching videos on the Internet can also reduce other workers' productivity because the bandwidth consumed by streaming media can adversely affect network performance.
Whether intentionally hosted on malicious sites or uploaded to legitimate webpages during a hijack, malware is ubiquitous on the Internet. Employees can infect their computers -- and potentially their entire office network -- by downloading and installing malicious software disguised as legitimate applications such as anti-virus programs, games and productivity tools. No security application or appliance is 100 percent bullet-proof, so there’s little that you can do short of best-practices education to stop Internet-based malware from infecting computers in your office network.
When sending email to external clients, or posting in forums or social networking sites, many employees don’t realize that they’re putting their company’s endorsement on their electronic communications. Ill-conceived personal emails sent from business accounts can quickly land someone in hot water, and a Facebook posting can be erroneously interpreted as an official company stance. Additionally, not everyone communicates in writing as they would in person, and it’s very easy for someone to misunderstand an email’s intent.
Having a comprehensive electronic communications policy is the first step in curbing the potential risks posed by Internet use. The policy must define acceptable verses unacceptable usage and be easily understood by every computer user regardless of technical aptitude. You should also make an effort to educate people on the potential consequences of inappropriate Internet usage, as most people are more likely to follow a policy if they understand the “whys” behind it. Additionally, you can use the firewall built into your office router to block inappropriate or dangerous websites, or purchase a stand-alone security appliance that does the same thing.
A writer and proofreader since 2006, B. Steele also works as an IT Help Desk analyst, specializing in consumer and business user tech support. She earned a B.A. in English and journalism from Roger Williams University. Steele also holds certifications as a Microsoft-certified desktop support technician, Microsoft-certified IT professional, Windows 7 enterprise support technician and CompTIA A+ IT technician.