Most companies with dedicated internet access have an internal policy or guideline relating to employees accessing the Internet on company-owned computers or even via the employees’ personal Internet-enabled devices.
While employees may not exchange communications or conduct transactions through a company’s Internet service and should use it strictly for work-related purposes, having a policy in place is always a good idea.
The existence of an Internet usage policy provides employees with a guideline for acceptable conduct and communication while using company assets, and provides a layer of protection for the company in the event their Internet access is used in a way that is damaging, counter-productive, or even illegal.
Taking the Next Step – Monitoring
Despite the presence of a written policy outlining what is or is not permissible on company-provided Internet service, it may be prudent to be more proactive and actually monitor employee use of the Internet.
This can be done passively, through the installation of programs that prohibit access to certain sites and do not allow downloads of certain file types, or applications that limit the ability of employees to send e-mail. It may also be done more actively, through physically observing what e-mails are being sent and received, what websites are being visited, and what is being downloaded.
When do you decide to become more proactive in monitoring and restricting use of your company’s Internet access?
If your company deals with highly sensitive or confidential data on a regular basis, you may want to be more aggressive in curtailing any personal use of the Internet. Data leaks and breaches are a very serious matter for nearly every company, and they can be a costly disaster that is almost impossible to recover from.
Aside from protection of sensitive information, your company may wish to restrict personal use of the company’s Internet if employee productivity is flagging because of too much time spent by employees engaged in personal pursuits online.
These personal pursuits can be a variety of activities such as messaging friends on Facebook, shopping online, playing web-based games, downloading music and movies, or spending time reading material that has nothing to do with work.
While you may not want your employees to feel like their activities are being monitored or that their use of the Internet is being restricted, the fact remains that Internet access at work is the “property” of the company and is subject to conditions that would be placed on the use of any other company property.
Data breaches or illegal online transactions can occur without harmful intent, so protecting your company’s assets should be your paramount concern. By taking care of your company property, you are also taking care of your employees through the prevention of improper conduct or communications online.
Being proactive by anticipating what could happen rather than being reactive and dealing with something after it happens is always a step in the right direction toward doing what is in the best interests of your company.