Cyber Monday Web Filtering Woes – 3 Simple Steps to Establish a Web Filtering Policy

By Eric Huskey

So, it’s Cyber Monday, the single biggest sales day for online stores since 2010! It’s also one of those days that employees are more likely to spend 4 hours browsing for deals instead of getting work done. This article by Olivera Perkins has some really interesting facts about Cyber Monday. Apparently, 53% of senior management and 46% of ‘rank and file’ employees will snag up some great deals while on the clock. Reading this struck some alarms in my head.  The ‘tech sales guy’ in me immediately thought of productivity cost and enforcing internet use policies with technology.  When my ‘tech sales guy’ brain rebooted… I thought…”How is company culture, creativity and productivity impacted by web content filtering.  Is web filtering really a priority for small and midsized businesses (SMB)?”

Here’s what I came up with.  Every company has a different business model and every leader his own style.  Creating a web filtering plan is undoubtedly a necessary part of your overall technology roadmap; however, one size does not fit all.  Here at Michell Consulting Group I have free rain to facebook, youtube, tweet and even to do some Cyber Monday shopping.  Does it distract me from work?  Sometimes, but I put in enough hours working off the clock to make up for that and more!  I think as companies adopt the shift to a mobile workplace they recognize that becoming ‘internet use Nazis’ does more harm than good.  At the same time some organizations have compliance mandates that require strict filtering.

So how do we approach web filtering?  On a user by user basis.  We want to maximize productivity without negatively impacting company culture and productivity.   So here are three simple, but not necessarily easy, steps to creating a web filtering plan!

  1. Establish a general policy  First we block malevolent websites and establish a general policy that applies to all employees.  This may exclude employees from sites that contain unacceptable workplace material like gory or pornographic content.  This will vary; however, every general policy should by default block malevolent sites that are known to contain malware.
  2. Identify roles and group them – Second, we identify all of the roles within your organization, group them into common requirements and apply filters to those groups.  Maybe finance employees shouldn’t have access to websites/applications like Dropbox or Google Docs.  Does the procurement department really need to stream Breaking Bad from Netflix on their mobile device?  These are the questions we need to ask.
  3. Continuous Review and Alignment – We aren’t finished though.  We still need to continuously review which sites and applications are hogging bandwidth or our employees’ time and realign web filtering policies to our business values.  Is your receptionist’s ‘nanny cam’ slowing down other employees’ applications or web browsing?  Is Sally in HR spending an excessive amount of time reading articles on Glamour Magazine?

Having a strategic technology advisor is critical to the SMB. Helping you answer questions like “should I buy web content filtering?” or “how should I implement web content filtering?” is crucial to ensuring great business outcomes.  A true advisor can help align your companies goals, culture, and policies to all of your technology endeavors and have a significant impact on the profitability of your company.