As companies become more reliant on the Internet for business uses, so too does the opportunity for employee abuse. Employees who previously wasted time in the break room are now wasting time on the Internet - for non-business usage. Key issues employers need to be aware of in "unauthorized" Internet use by employees include:
- Loss of productivity - Employees conducting personal Internet business on company time.
- Legal issues - Employees downloading copyrighted software.
- Sexual harassment - Viewing explicit material on company time and company owned equipment.
- Bandwidth issues - Non-business Internet use by employees can slow your company network server.
- Earning outside income on company time - Many sites offer cash to surfers and e-mail readers.
- Infection of company systems - Viruses from unauthorized sites can wreak havoc on the company software and hardware.
Now with all this in mind, what are companies doing about controlling their employees desire to surf instead of work? Many companies are developing an employee Internet usage policy. This is often called an Internet Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and is inserted in the employee handbook or personnel policy. Most AUP policies limit Internet access to official business during business hours and establish guidelines to address violators. Some indicate that after-hours usage is acceptable. It doesn't completely eliminate the abuse, but does set forth policy that the company recognizes a potential problem, and sends a clear message to employees that non-business usage is unacceptable during business hours.
In combination with the acceptable use policy, some companies are implementing monitoring tools. Netrics (www.netrics.com) offers a ProxyReport showing daily totals by user, daily averages, and top 10 employee user statistics. In addition, ProxyReport has a drill-down feature to see what site employees are visiting. Kansmen (www.kansmen.com) features their LittleBrother software which shows where employees are going on the Net, and how long they've been there. The pricing is very reasonable for the small biz market! The Netrics ProxyReport is available for UNIX and Windows NT for $295, and can be purchased on-line through their site. Kansmen's LittleBrother standard edition which includes monitoring and reporting starts at $295. The LittleBrotherPro with blocking functions starts at $495.
Once these systems are in place the company can reduce their legal and technological risk and promote more productivity and efficiency. Sample AUPs can be obtained on-line via a search engine and typing: Internet Acceptable Use Policy.