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When is it OK for Your Employees to Surf the Net at Work?

When computers started to become a part of working life, and the internet became widespread, the temptation to browse around this magical new window into the world was hard to resist. Many employers found themselves facing an increasing problem with falling productivity and undesirable content being accessed through their terminals. As a consequence, most organizations now have restricted access to the internet via approved lists, firewall settings, and proxy servers. Problem solved you might think but are there occasions when free access to the web might be a good thing for your business?

What does your business do?

The primary decisive factor will be the sector you are in and what kind of security level you need. If you have a contract with the Department of Defense, for example, restrictions need to be as tight as possible to avoid any malware accessing the system and compromising your relationship with a critical security organization. On the other hand, if you are a librarian you need to be able to access any source of information that might be relevant to answering a query or ensuring research is done comprehensively. Or if you run a travel agency, your staff need to be able to access information about different countries and resorts from multiple sources.

Businesses that could need widespread access

If your business involves any current awareness, research, journalism or related fields, there’s a good chance your staff will miss out on some valuable resources if you limit their access to specific websites. There are many sites with news stories not reported elsewhere or different approaches to a subject that could be valuable to a topic you are working on. Sites such as Press Cave could have interesting information that hasn’t been published elsewhere, and you could be depriving your staff of a useful resource.

Businesses that might have problems with restrictions

A good example of where problems can arise is if you have anything to do with health care, physiology, biology and related subjects. This is because there are a lot of legitimate medical terms and names for body parts that would trigger an alert on a restricted system and prevent access. The problem is that lifting the restriction could lead to inappropriate material being accessed. The answer is to have a system in place whereby legitimate, useful websites that are being blocked can be reported to your IT department, who can check the site and unblock it from then on.

It’s safe to say that your staff shouldn’t be conducting searches for their personal benefit or entertainment, or doing anything that distracts them from their job while at work. Equally, you don’t want to restrict their access so tightly that they can’t locate the information they need to do their job effectively. The key to finding the balance is to assess your unique business situation, taking both security requirements, business needs and the role of your employees into account to achieve the best results for your business.

Writer and news enthusiast. Enjoy the simple things in life. A coffee on a Sunday morning listening to your favorite tracks. Take the time to love the world around you and enjoy life! Then work on something that you're passionate about.

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