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The Importance of Internet Monitoring and Web Filtering in a Small Business

by GFI Software

The Internet is a major channel for businesses to communicate, search for information and carry out other daily tasks. Together with this medium, however, come a number of risks of concern to businesses, including misuse of web browsing and email access at work, malware infection, negligence and legal liability.

Misuse of Internet resources at work is a common issue

Studies have shown that the most common misuses of Internet resources in the working environment are when employees access inappropriate websites and excessive web surfing.

It is clear that companies need to address this, firstly because time wasted in this way results in lost productivity and lost profit; secondly as the risk of malware and spyware infection when employees do not pay attention to the type of websites they visit is constantly growing. Innocuous-looking websites may have been hijacked and could simply be a smokescreen for malware, such as targeted Trojans, to gain access to the network, often bypassing signature-based anti-virus programs. If employees click on such links and download software, this then poses a serious security risk.

Another problem is the viewing or downloading of illegal, illicit and inappropriate material on users’ workstations that can create legal liabilities for the company - an expense small businesses can ill-afford to spend their hard-earned cash on. Not to mention the hostile working environment that could be created when allowing employees to visit objectionable sites which could contribute to employees leaving the company, meaning more cost and time to recruit replacements.

An Internet User Policy is not enough

It seems that companies are taking initial steps to tackle this issue: a study by GFI (2009) showed that 61% of SMBs (small and medium businesses) indicate they have policies in place regarding Internet use. Yet this is only part of the solution; the same study reported that only 47% have the means to monitor and/or filter traffic. Clearly, web filtering has become essential for businesses.

To enforce Internet use policies - and thereby take steps to enhance productivity while enhancing security and curbing costs and potential liability - solid Internet use monitoring software is needed. This enables administrators to enforce network usage policies and monitor user behavior.

Take action with the right Internet monitoring and web filtering solution

Small businesses should first see which Internet monitoring and web filtering solution to opt for – appliance, on-premise or cloud – depending on their budget and needs. A cloud solution, for example, may well appear to be the cheapest option; however, many current online offerings are limited in their scope and in the granularity they offer, and would probably best be suited only to very small businesses. SMBs would usually invest in an on-premise or appliance solution. A small business should therefore evaluate which solution is most suitable according to their logistics.

Another point they should keep in mind is that not all Internet monitoring software on the market offers the same quality. A solid Internet monitoring and web filtering solution should offer strong features such as category block lists and zero client installation to help administrators protect their network from malware on the web, conserve bandwidth by blocking audio/video downloads, block time-wasting sites and leverage community URL categorization.

Not all employees like the idea of their online activity being monitored, but web filtering remains the ultimate option for businesses. Organisations applying Internet monitoring software should therefore communicate with their employees about this and clarify why this is being done: to run a safe, efficient and reliable working environment.

Additional Readings:

Internet Monitoring: How, what, why?
Taking Control of the Risks

More Stories By David Kelleher

David Kelleher is a Communications and Research Analyst at GFI Software, an infrastructure provider for small and medium-sized businesses. A journalist by profession, David has over 20 years’ experience writing for newspapers and publications across most verticals. A former editor, he has a deep interest in information technology and its impact on end-users, end-user education, writing about security for non-technical people, security awareness in SMBs and all research related to market perceptions and security.

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