The decision to start blocking websites is not one to be made lightly, but it is one all companies face eventually. Users with unrestricted Internet access find themselves constantly battling malware infections and at risk of information leakage, while companies that are blocking websites completely can find employee morale and productivity both adversely impacted.
If blocking websites is something your company is investigating, here are some points to consider.
Why blocking some websites can be a good thing
- Users accessing compromised websites and downloading infected files result in lost productivity and this means help desk staff must clean (or restage) users’ workstations. By blocking websites that are not business related you greatly reduce this risk.
- Downloading copyrighted material from the company’s network can expose the company to legal action. Blocking websites that host movies, music, and other content can protect the business from legal exposure.
- While some non-business related Internet access during work hours may not be a problem, users can waste hours surfing the web without even realizing it. Blocking websites can help to make sure users are focusing on their jobs, and not their social network.
- Blocking websites can also help conserve bandwidth for mission critical applications, and keep those charges down.
Why blocking all websites can be a bad thing
- More and more businesses are turning to social media channels to promote their products and services, and make connections with their customers. Cutting off this channel can prove costly.
- IT is not the only department that uses the Internet to perform their job. Blocking websites can prevent a sales person from researching the competition or even finding out more about a potential customer.
- As more and more users are expected to take work home, permitting them a degree of personal Internet access while at work keeps things fair and protects employee morale, while blocking all Internet access is a short path to resentful employees who will feel untrusted.
How to go about blocking websites the right way
- Establish an Internet usage policy that is fair and balanced, and ensure that all users are aware of what is considered appropriate and what is not.
- Permit a degree of personal Internet access, but monitor it to ensure it doesn’t impact productivity.
- Educate users on safe Internet habits, and the importance of adhering to policy.
- Implement web filtering software that can protect users from malware, block sites that are obviously not work appropriate, and that can whitelist sites that are business critical, like vendors, partners and customers.
Blocking websites is necessary, but should be done using a fair and open approach, and to protect users and the company’s information, but not with the attitude that you want to control your users. Keeping communications open between users, management and IT, and using the right web filtering solution, helps to ensure the company is protected and users are happy.