Goofing off on the Internet. The vision of employees wasting valuable time on the web haunts some employers. When I'm asked about preventing such abuse, I always explain that we can certainly record and even control internet access, but my experience has been that it's usually a non-issue. That is, "bad" employees will goof off one way or another, whether it's long bathroom breaks, chatting at the water cooler, personal phone calls or browsing the Internet. Most workers don't abuse any of those things. Whenever I put in a proxy server, those facts soon become very evident and management usually abandons the filtering quickly (or at least stops looking at reports!).
Now we have someone saying that "cyberloafing" (Internet goofing off ) can be a good thing. Actually, that doesn't surprise me. When I ask if management minds employees attending to some personal business while at work, most admit that they really don't mind at all. They understand that we all live in a very pressured world and that the demands of work can sometimes leave very little time for personal needs. It's only reasonable to expect that employees will need to do some of that at work. It's also obvious that we all need short mental health breaks now and then - we can't fully concentrate on work constantly.
I have to meet with a customer this week to set up a transparent proxy. We've had the "you probably won't use this" conversation, but he still wants it done. That's OK: it's entirely possible that his situation is different and that he truly needs this. He's using a router that has this capability built in so it's very simple to turn this on for a trial. If he finds it useful, he can subscribe to the service. If not, we'll just shut it off.
Just after typing that paragraph, I accidentally came across OpenDNS.com. I wasn't looking for web content filtering; this was truly a happenstance discovery. The more I looked at what they have to offer, the more convinced I became that this is what to show to my customer.
First, this is free. It's ad supported - when a site is mistyped or blocked, they display ads. That's hardly objectionable and could even be helpful when you are looking for something that used to exist but doesn't now. More importantly, the configuration is a very simple Web interface - he can set the level of filtering, add specific sites to block or unblock - the only feature this doesn't have that the router can offer is different filtering for different users and a password bypass. OpenDNS does offer tracking, though again they can't track individual machines unless they are using public ip addresses as the router software could. However, at least for testing purposes, this is simple and quick to implement and manage.
If it turns out that he wants more, we can do the router solution. If he decides he wants nothing, their phishing protection still adds value. Sounds like a plan!
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence