Should I block certain websites on my corporate network?

Should I block certain websites on my corporate network?

People are social by nature, so you may often find your staff hanging around the coffee machine to dish about the latest office drama. Or, if they are working remotely, they might do one-on-one calls with a colleague to shoot the breeze and check up on how they’re holding up during this pandemic.

There are also times when people just want to use the internet to unplug from work and from coworkers. For instance, staff members who work flexible hours at home may be the ones to regularly finish their tasks on time and with the quality required. If that’s the case, then it’s no big deal if they use their own internet connections to binge-watch Netflix or scroll through their social media feeds.

However, if your staff is on your corporate network (or you’ve provided mobile Wi-Fi routers for them to use at home), should you be more strict about which websites they can visit?

The answer depends on trust and mutual understanding

Employees must understand that their time is not their own when they are on the company’s dime. On the other hand, managers and business owners must understand that workers are human beings, not robots that only do what they’re told to do. With staff maintaining their managers’ trust in their work, managers in turn may allow the occasional visit to non-work-related sites — a privilege everyone must know management can take away when:

  • Productivity takes a dip – Deadlines are missed, projects are delayed, and penalties are levied against your company because of broken agreements.
  • Quality benchmarks are missed – Staff tend to rush their work when they spend too much time slacking off.
  • Bandwidth issues arise – When so many users are watching cat videos at the same time, everyone’s internet connection can slow down and drag their productivity down along with it.
  • Cost of internet increases dramatically – Data consumption is costlier the greater it gets.

Of course, some managers will avoid having to deal with these problems by restricting staff’s internet access from their first day in the organization. Such strict internet access controls are also important for ensuring data security, which is especially important in the healthcare sector and other fields that are under strict data regulations.

Related article: How do you keep your data safe now that it is more mobile?

Whether lax or strict, how you manage users’ internet access should not be a problem as long as:

  • you are transparent with your company policies
  • you communicate the policies fully (and institute a grace period so that exceptions can be identified and accommodated where appropriate)
  • everyone agrees to honour these rules

With that said, one of the easiest ways to control internet usage is by using a web blocker.

What is a website blocker?

Essentially, this is anything an IT administrator (or the users themselves) can utilize to block access to specific websites. Admins can use web control software such as Cisco Umbrella to keep users away from online distractions as well as malware-infected websites. They can also adjust the settings of routers that are used inside the office or the ones issued for home use. Users, on the other hand, can impose self-discipline by installing a web browser extension such as BlockSite.

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What are the downsides to using a web blocker?

The common drawback of using website blockers is the huge chunk of your IT admins' time it takes to accommodate exceptions to your web blocking rules. For example, you can set social media sites as off-limits to most staff members, but your online marketing team will need access to those sites, and some staff may use social media sites for personal development or for medically-approved coping mechanisms

An alternative to website blockers is employee monitoring software — a program that can automatically notify admins when employees visit prohibited sites. Feelings toward monitoring are mixed: there are employees who find it less stressful to deal with than blockers, whereas others find that it intrudes on their privacy, even if they’re using company resources.

However you decide to maintain staff productivity, there are plenty of IT tools you can use. In fact, there’s usually a dizzying array of them available. Trust XBASE to help you choose— and use — the right IT solutions for your business. Download our eBook today to learn how our Exponentially Better™ IT services can boost your business!

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