What’s a web filter and how can my business benefit from it?
A web filter, in the most basic sense, is a program that is capable of blocking certain websites and protects machines from malicious activity. A filter also can track the Internet activity of individual employees or groups, documenting where they surfed and for how long.
Web filtering is much, much, more than just blocking Facebook and other popular sites from employee access during work. It’s about protecting your network from malicious activity, it’s about recouping lost productivity, it’s about maximizing your bandwidth. Implementing a web filter in your business is among the easiest, most cost-effective things you can do to increase productivity and proactively protect your network. Here are 8 reasons (or benefits) of why your company needs a web filter:
1. Return on Investment
Return on Investment is the main reason you should consider implementing a web filter. Think about it this way; let’s say you have 20 employees and their average salary breaks down to $15/hour. If your average employee wastes about 2 hours a day, that amounts to about $156,000 in productivity costs per year – down the drain. By implementing a web filter (which runs around $4,800 fully installed and managed over three years) you can regain $151,200 back in productivity in the first year. It would only take your business about two weeks to recoup the $4,800 investment for the web filter and start seeing gains in productivity and profitability. What does this look like for your business? Plug in the numbers here: http://tek2u.com/webfilter.
2. Protection from Malicious Activity
A web filter can help protect your network and your user’s desktops against malicious activity such as viruses, malware, phishing, and spyware, by blocking access to sites known to propagate these unwanted Internet nuisances.
Visiting certain sites can increase the possibility of exposure to damaging software including viruses, worms, spyware, malware, and others. By preventing access to troublesome sites, the number of machines infected with viruses or other malicious software drops drastically, really saving you the time and resources needed to fix the infected machine.
3. Productivity Acceleration
If your employees simply know that your company is monitoring web traffic, guess what; they will be more cautious of how much time they spend surfing the Internet and what sites they’re visiting. With an incentive to curb visiting popular time-sucking sites, you can put the pedal to the floor on productivity acceleration.
4. Identify “bandwidth hogs”
Many times we get calls saying, “My Internet is too slow, we need more bandwidth!” That may be true in some cases, but in most, the slow Internet can be blamed on streaming audio or video among other bandwidth hogs. With a web filter, you can identify which users are using the most bandwidth, at what time, and for how long.
Other bandwidth hogs include: email spam, viruses, malicious intrusion, inefficient network design, social networking, hosting FTP sites, P2P sharing, and regulatory compliance.
5. Limit online exposures (company liability)
Did you know that your business may be held liable for employees who download and store copyright materials such as illegally downloaded music and movies? Nip that in the bud.
Here’s a fun fact: about 70% of pornographic sites are visited during the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Yikes!
Also think about human resource exposures. Web filters allow you to block specific sites for specific users. Let’s say a hiring manager is in the process of hiring a new employee and they’re blocked from using social media sites. They are now prevented from looking at the candidate’s online presence, limiting your exposure to making hiring decisions based on possible discriminatory information they acquired through personal online information.
6. Manage social networking in the office
Being on Facebook and tweeting during business hours is not really a valid argument for blocking social media sites anymore. Recent research indicates that employees who are encouraged to tweet, Facebook, socialize online are actually more productive. (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-01/when-social-media-at-work-dont-create-productivity-killing-distractions). The caveat is as long as the social media conversing is really work-related and is helping current or future clients. Web filtering and monitoring can show you what social media activity your employees are participating in. It’s probably alright if your employee answers a customer’s question on your company’s Facebook page. It may be a red flag if one of your users is spending 6 hours tweeting to celebrities and writing blogs on what they had for dinner last night.
7. Internet Usage Policy Enforcement
If your company currently has an Internet usage policy, how do you enforce it? Well, you really can’t. (See “Creating an Internet Usage Policy” link below). Think about it, how can you hold your employees accountable for their wasted time if you have nothing to back it up and document activity? Web filters can keep track of each URL visited by each user and show how long and how frequently they visited the site.
8. Mental Breaks
Studies show that those employees who take a mental break during the day and surf the web, are actually more productive then those who do not take a break, or those that surf the web for specific personal reasons, like paying bills, or answering personal email. However, where do you draw the line and how do you know if the line has been crossed, abusing this mental break time? A web filter that can track usage will allow you to follow your employee’s online activity and curb abusing this productive privilege.
If you plan on using a web filter to enforce an Internet usage policy, your policy needs to be clear, crystal clear. See our blog on creating an internet usage policy.