Network Filtering Software
Distracting online content has never been in greater supply. From eBay to Twitter, and Reddit to YouTube, employees can easily waste an entire day on online distractions. It's a grave concern for employers. And it’s why many companies invest in network filtering software.
MSPs can make themselves more marketable by adding web protection services to their portfolio.
Web Filtering: Necessary in Today's Workplace
For some employees, the distractions aren't severe. A 10-minute break on The New York Times’ website, after all, isn't the biggest productivity killer. Employers recognize that their teams need breaks here and there.
But on some occasions, online distractions can be a nightmare for employers. In a survey of HR professionals, some of these stories were laid bare: an employee caught in the act of using a dating site, even as he flatly denied it; another worker who was found to be printing a whole book from the Internet.
The numbers tell an even more problematic story. According to surveys, nearly 90 percent of employees waste some time every day at work. How do the exact figures stack up? According to the survey, about a third of workers waste a half hour every day. Another third kill an hour. And some 15 percent spent two hours, on average, on distractions every day.
You have to assume that those numbers don't include lunch breaks.
A Mounting Cost for Employers
And what’s causing all of these distractions? Another survey found that nearly 40 percent of distractions are the product of social media. Another 40 percent come from the Internet more generally.
How employees distract themselves — and why they distract themselves — varies by age groups, according to a study by academic researchers. Employees in an older demographic spend more time managing their finances. Not surprisingly, younger employees waste more of their time on social media.
This comes at a tremendous cost to employers. According to one estimate, companies lose more than $80 billion each year on this wasted time. Distractions cut deeply into employee productivity — one of the many reasons that employers have grown focused on network filtering software.
The Problem for Socially Connected Workplaces
Some employers find that this is a problem that demands special attention. These are organizations that, because of their industry, rely on social media networks.
Firms that depend on social media find themselves in a special kind of blind. Take the case of Ken Wisnefski, who gave an interview to CBS News. The founder of a marketing firm, Wisnefski realized that his employees were spending their days on sites like Facebook but not doing their work. He couldn't issue a complete blacklisting of these sites because his firm specializes in online marketing. His employees require social media to do their jobs.
Wisnefski also found that his firm's advantage depends on young employees — those who are most tech savvy. But this is also the demographic that most often wastes its work hours on social media.
Wisnefski admitted that he struggles to find a solution to this dilemma. And while his employees promised to minimize these time drains, Wisnefski discovered that their words were merely lip service.
Associated Security Threats
Executives are justified in their frustrations about employee productivity. And lost productivity is a good reason to pursue network filtering software.
Employers may view their workers’ distractions as a form of stealing. Employees take money via a paycheck but don't fully meet their obligations to do their jobs. But for managed service providers (MSPs) and other IT professionals, there are potentially bigger fish to fry.
Consider malware. As many as 40,000 websites are hacked by cyber criminals every day, according to experts at Sophos. They spread malware to unsuspecting users who don't realize that legitimate sites can inadvertently host malicious code.
Malware can infect users’ computers even from trustworthy sites. Moving through a network, malware can destroy a computer’s functionality, lead to data breaches or place a huge bottleneck on system resources.
This is a major reason that MSPs implement network filtering software. When employees browse the web irresponsibly, they can put an entire network at risk. And because malware is often covert, networks can be infected without a user even realizing it. These drive-by attacks can harm anyone's workstation, no matter the user's tech skills or training.
Lost productivity isn't the only threat from 10 minutes of online shopping. Users may inadvertently infect a network through malvertisements and compromise an entire network.
Data and Legal Costs
Here’s another benefit of network filtering software: it offers organizations a defense against data drains. It's no surprise that streaming video has exploded in recent years. From Netflix to YouTube, employees now have an infinite supply of online videos.
IT experts note that, for a medium-sized network, video browsing can be a considerable drain on bandwidth. These drains cause networks to grind to a halt, and disrupt business.
Unfiltered web access also presents legal issues. The reason is employers can assume responsibility for their employees’ Internet use.
You can imagine an employee who watches a video that seems funny to him. He might show it off to his co-workers. But that same video may offend another employee. And the offense may look more than just bothersome. If an employee finds that this content is a form of discrimination, their organization could face potentially expensive legal problems from the fallout.
The Benefits of Network Filtering Software
Network filtering, then, is important from an enterprise standpoint. It protects against malware while increasing productivity. It increases network efficiency. And it mitigates the risk of legal problems.
So, what are some best practices for filtering content?
Defending against malware. Blacklists make sure that users stay off dangerous sites. But to make sure a filter doesn't block legitimate sites, MSPs should also institute whitelists.
Boosting productivity. Network filtering curbs the use of websites that aren’t related to work. This can be accomplished using several methods. Administrators can set up a blanket policy that blocks access requests throughout a network. Administrators may also choose a more fine-tuned strategy. With a granular approach, MSPs may grant access to certain users. They may also set specific time windows in which other users can access blocked websites. Lunch hours may be a good time to allow Facebook use, for instance.
A more efficient network. Network filtering software should offer comprehensive web filtering and monitoring. Working together, these solutions show administrators which sites are clogging up the network while allowing them to proactively respond to these clogs.
Legal defense. Filtering solutions can keep users away from illegal content by restricting access. But network filters should also be implemented to serve as record keepers. If a legal fight arises, such solutions can provide a log of network activity.
Network filtering software clearly is a must-have. But whether the issues surround bandwidth or productivity, experts maintain that granular control is important for MSPs. Some users may truly need to access Reddit. Other users may not. And when setting these policies, MSPs must be careful. Organizational morale can take a dip if employees believe they are too closely controlled.
A Comprehensive Content Filtering Solution
Analysts agree on the key functionalities of network filtering software. And MSPs agree on the leading solution: SolarWinds MSP’s (formerly LOGICnow) MSP RMM.
With our industry-leading platform, MSPs benefit from comprehensive, flexible filtering tools. Our solution gives you the power to:
- Defend against web threats in all shapes and sizes, including malware and phishing attacks.
- Keep tabs on bandwidth with usage alerts and daily checks.
- Customize your blacklists to fine-tune your browsing policies.
- Create custom policies that grant web access during specified time windows.
- Read through advanced usage analytics that present a clear picture of unusual browsing.
With MSP RMM, MSPs have total control over their web policies. Using a single, lightweight dashboard, you can specify granular policies that include:
- Custom rules for laptops, desktops, and servers
- Custom messages that appear when users visit blacklisted sites
- Access rules that vary from user to user
Filtering Risky Email
Of course, threats don't only come from the web. Email can present a major network risk, with attacks coming from spoofed addresses and man-in-the-middle exchanges.
Here, we built our MSP Mail Protection Platform to support the distinct needs of MSPs. Our network filtering software keeps your clients’ email secure and offers bulletproof security. Features include:
- A unique combination of antivirus engines that uncover and eliminate threats
- Identification of early-stage malware, and defense against zero-hour threats
- Message routing through a secure email gateway, which prevents risky mail from landing in your infrastructure
- Elimination of spam and phishing attacks using advanced fingerprinting
- Customizable blacklists and whitelists so your clients only receive messages from trustworthy senders
Where to Go from Here
Facebook isn't disappearing anytime soon. Twitter is here to stay. So, too, are online shopping and streaming video.
Working together, employers and MSPs must continue fighting the distractions and time drains — not to mention the numerous security risks that accompany web browsing.
The battle goes on. But with SolarWinds MSP’s suite of IT solutions, MSPs have the best weapons at their disposal. It's no wonder why MSPs using SolarWinds MSP retain 98 percent of their clients.
Give MSP Remote Monitoring & Management a try. We offer a risk-free 30-day trial that you can get up and running in 10 minutes. Put our network filtering software and all of our other solutions to work for you.
About SolarWinds MSP
SolarWinds MSP delivers the only 100% SaaS, fully cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) platform, backed by collective intelligence and the highest levels of layered security. SolarWinds MSP’s products including Risk Intelligence, Remote Management, Backup & Disaster Recovery, Mail and Service Desk – comprise the market’s most widely trusted integrated solution.
Deployed on millions of endpoints across hundreds of thousands of networks, the platform has the industry vision to define and deliver the future of the market. SolarWinds MSP provides the most comprehensive IT security available as well as LOGICcards, the first ever IT notification feature powered by prescriptive analytics and machine learning.
SolarWinds MSP’s passion is helping IT professionals secure and manage their systems and data through actionable insights, rewriting the rules of IT.
For more information, visit www.solarwindsmsp.com.
Kansas State University: https://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/jan13/cyberloaf13113.html
Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-key-to-getting-workers-to-stop-wasting-time-online-1457921545
CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ask-the-experts-help-my-employees-spend-too-much-time-on-facebook/