Companies are faced with the ongoing problem of recreational internet surfing at the workplace. Through the course of a workday employees will check the scores of their latest sports team, read their on-line email, listen to streaming music and even partake in on-line gambling. Today’s networks support very impressive bandwidth abilities…necessary for staying competitive in the business world, not for streaming videos of the college basketball playoffs. In efforts to promote CBS Sportsonline.com, CBS partnered with College Sports Television (CSTV) to offer online live sports broadcasts of the NCAA tournament…..a network administrator’s worst nightmare.
Most employees are not aware of the effects of misusing the company’s network bandwidth. They see no problem with personal internet surfing and insist they remain productive. What they do not realize how taxing recreational internet use affects the overall network, especially if your company conducts its business online. When you multiply a couple of thousand employees surfing the internet tying up valuable bandwidth, this directly impacts your customers ability to utilize your website or an employee performing legitimate online company related data transfers. Not only does management have to deal with wasted employee hours, slowness of the network, but the liability of sexual harassment. If an employee is on the internet viewing pornography, printing pictures or sending email with sexual content, coworkers could be offended. This could lead to costly sexual harassment allegations, not to mention the negative affect on moral in the workplace. Management is concerned with the ethical issue of employees using the ever popular “file sharing” web sites to download music, games and illegal copies of software.
As Chief Information Officer (CIO) how does one crack down on employees abusing company computer resources, specifically network misuse described above? The first step is to establish company policies identifying how company internet access and email and are to be utilized. Informing employees about email content, what websites genres are allowed and how often these resources can be used for non-work related are activities is the bedrock in preventing abuse. Ensure employees understand when connected to the internet via company resources that they should not expect complete privacy and they are being monitored.
There are several software solutions available to administrators to prevent network abuse. This software can do everything from managing when an employee can log on to the computer, to filtering what applications and websites are available. This monitoring software can even go as far logging every application used, every website visited and recording every keystroke. These log files are then stored and management reports can be generated. The city of Pittsburg Pennsylvania even went as far as incorporating an internet usage time limit on its employees. When the employees of the city’s Public Works Department logged on to their computer and went to the internet they received a message stating that all web sites are filtered and before they could continue they must click on a “Use Quota Time” button. City management is allowing employees three 10 minute sessions per day for all internet use, personal or work related. The city uses software from a San Diego Based-company, Websense Inc., that already prevents users from forbidden pornographic and gambling websites. Recognizing the need to save very costly bandwidth, the CIO, Howard Stern is quoted; “By [employees] not being on the Internet, we’ll have more room in our pipe, so to speak, to allow work-related searches to be done faster.” Lord (2006 ¶ 13)
The ability to communicate both internally and externally via network resources is the lifeblood of almost every organization. As a CIO, employee internet usage, monitoring bandwidth and maintaining strong control of network resources are key in providing your business the tools it needs to remain competitive.