Is web filtering a necessary evil for small businesses?


January 4, 2018

Years ago, the easy way to drive company productivity was through web filtering—installing an IT solution as part of a firewall to block employee access to certain sites. Filtering let businesses limit web use by either category or domain, allowing employers to finally put the kibosh on productivity-draining surfing.

In today’s technology ecosystem, however, things are never as simple as they seem. Social media and video are now so thoroughly integrated into the work world that it doesn’t always make sense to rule browsing behavior with an iron fist. In fact, clamping down too hard can drive other undesirable behaviors, like smartphone use on the job.

On the other hand, some IT solutions experts argue that a sensible web filtering plan can do a lot for IT security. The sites that content filters block tend to host objectionable advertising, adult content, spyware and viruses. Here’s the skinny on web filtering and why you might think about adding it to your IT support portfolio.

Face it: Employees spend a lot of time surfing the web

In surveys, employees admitted to wasting at least some time on activities that aren’t work-related. In fact, 38% said they regularly visit social media sites on company computers, while 39% spend work hours surfing the web.

Of course, blocking social media is not a flawless IT solution. New research shows that while employees often use social media for personal reasons, it’s also a way to foster professional relationships and gather information to solve work-related problems. Still, content filtering is a good technique to ban adult sites and other inappropriate material, and many companies have witnessed positive results using selective content filtering from IT support providers.

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Unfiltered surfing can be a malware hazard

Beyond squandering productivity, unfiltered web browsing can endanger your entire network. Unsafe sites are more likely to contain malicious links embedded in advertisements, and with one click, the whole unit can easily become infected with malware. This is an understandable cause for concern among IT solutions providers, especially because researchers estimate that over 800 new malware specimens emerge every hour.

The same researchers found that there’s been a 9% increase in adware—intrusive spying malware, disguised as advertisements, that can track user behavior even across secure connections and eat up data and bandwidth. Banning known offenders is at least a small step toward eliminating these threats and building a stronger IT support strategy.

Web filtering may encourage smartphone use

That said, blocking certain websites may simply drive employees to their smartphones. A recent survey found that employees spend an average of 56 minutes a day on their personal mobile devices while at work.

On average, 58% of employees use their devices to access banned sites—especially social media and entertainment platforms—up from 22% in 2012. Given those figures, banning certain sites may not always yield the productivity boosts you want.

Designing a sensible web filtering plan

Ultimately, your decision will depend on your company’s culture and needs, as well as what you’re looking for in terms of IT support. If you decide that content filtering makes sense for your business, your best bet is to work with an IT support provider like Integris. Together, we’ll design a filtering plan that works for your business model and ensure you have other security safeguards in place, such as a tight firewall and robust anti-malware software.

We're Integris. We're always working to empower people through technology.

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