So how can an organisation harness this great opportunity to ensure it is a safe resource for the business environment? That is the role that employee Internet management (EIM) providers play.
Since the EIM market was pioneered in 2000, this 'role' has changed dramatically, and never more so than in the last year. Originally, the demand was for a product that was focused solely on stopping employees from accessing, downloading or sharing any offensive material. Then, once companies felt they could successfully block inappropriate material, the focus changed and issues surrounding productivity were raised. Not unlike a child in the sweet shop, people suddenly had a new range of activities at their fingertips and, understandably, people were overindulging. There needed to be an agreed, appropriate middle ground - which allowed access, within limits and contrary to the media's belief at the time, these limits were welcomed not only by senior management but also by the employees themselves. Research showed that more than 80 percent of staff voted in favour of employers managing their Internet access at work (Web@Work 2001).
The Internet policy was born, and although companies reacted quickly in ensuring guidelines were drafted and in place, many soon realised that simply generating a written Internet policy was not enough. In 2002, one in four UK companies dismissed staff for Internet misuse, and many companies found themselves front-page news.
EIM software became the logical way to enforce these policies. However, in today's environment companies now face a whole array of new challenges which require a different approach and tools. Just as the Internet evolves quickly, so has the e-enabled workplace. Internet access is no longer just about stopping access to 'bad' sites or agreeing when people can and can't use the Web for personal reasons - it's about ensuring the Internet does not put staff or the company at risk. It sounds serious, because it is.
Malicious mobile code, such as viruses and worms, can infect your network and cost companies millions in clean up costs - look at Nimda and Code Red. Spyware can launch unknowingly on an employee's PC and read his/her personal or company documents.
Peer-to-peer file sharing enables people to share not only company confidential documents but also pirated software or illegally copied media files - all of which provide the company with legal issues and, in some cases, companies have been held responsible, to the tune of millions of pounds, for an employee's actions. What is perhaps even more shocking is that most of the emerging new Internet-related threats do not require any intent or malice on behalf of the employee - most damage is done without them even being aware of what has happened.