As financial firms add online access to employee desktops, the Internet has proved to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the ability to get messages out quickly by e-mail, or to conduct research online, has increased employee productivity. On the other hand, the World Wide Web, with its tempting information smorgasbord, has snapped up the attention of more and more folks who are supposed to be working. This is why Secure Computing recently released its Smart Filter Internet monitoring and filtering software.
It's not really about bringing Big Brother to the workplace, says a spokesperson for the San Jose, Calif.-based firm. It's more about limiting work hours to the practice of, well, work.
Christein Hughes, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Secure Computing, estimates that of all the the Internet surfing that goes on in the workplace, some 60% of it might be non-business-related sites - travel and sports, for example. It's becoming very challenging for corporations to stay on top of this because of the sheer number of new Web sites going online every day. According to a report by IDG, there will be about 320 million users on the Internet within the next two years. By the end of this year, there will already be about 98 million surfers online.
SmartFilter restricts access to users in a few ways. The first is by a flat-out block of sites that companies deem unsuitable - graphic sites are included in this category. IT managers can also opt for the "caching" function. In this case, users are given access to sites, but an online message appears onscreen to warn them that their visit may be logged, maybe monitored. "De-prioritization" is concerned with bandwidth, during peak hours - between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - downloads from URLs logged in the SmartFilter software will be given lesser priority than any other traffic passing along company networks. The rationale is that if a user has to wait a good 10 minutes in order to download, say, the latest sports scores, they might very well lose their patience and get back to work.
Secure Computing has an existing cache of some 500,000 URLs in their control list; they add or subtract some 7,000 sites each week. The business user has access to the software and updates on "non-business" URLs by weekly download. Pricing is server-based and depends on the number of users. Annual subscriptions are also available.
For more information about Secure Computing's products, see the company's Web site at www.sctc.com