From The Editor | March 20, 2009

Balance Of Legitimate Web Usage And Personal Surfing

Written by: Gennifer Biggs

Last month I had an interesting call about Web surfing with Steve Yin, VP of global sales and marketing for St. Bernard Software. He shared some advice for VARs and managed services providers (MSPs) working with companies struggling to balance monitoring personal Internet surfing from workstations with business-necessary Web usage — without cutting the cord, or the DSL cable, as the case may be. A recent survey by St. Bernard, which specializes in Web filtering solutions, showed that 61% of workers spend up to two hours a week doing personal Internet surfing while on the job, while 24% spend between three to five hours. Those peaks often happen around big events, such as last month’s March Madness, which is why many cyber criminals mask malware and other security threats in event-related emails and website. All of that extracurricular activity not only impacts productivity, but also leaves employers’ networks vulnerable, and in some cases, those surges in bandwidth usage can also impact the company’s bottom line if overage fees come into play.

So how, as a VAR, can you help your customers balance use and abuse? Yin says a good vendor partner should work to help its channel partners eliminate the potential for a network breach enabled by hapless Web surfing. “We want to help our partners button up these networks,” says Yin. “We are reminding our partners to remind their clients that there are tools that help maintain network security even as costs are scrutinized in today’s economy,” adds Yin. The key for VARs is helping your clients balance productivity and morale with safety. Many businesses don’t even have a formalized Web usage policy, which should be a VARs first recommendation. “As a trusted advisor, you can help businesses develop a policy that balances usage and security,” says Yin. A formal policy may be complex and depend on IT management tools that allow administrators to establish various policies to restrict Internet access. More commonly, businesses simply ask employees to restrict personal Web usage to outside standard work hours and during lunch hours.

To help channel partners service their customers, vendors may offer specific tools for setting security policy. For example, St. Bernard recently collaborated with the ePolicy Institute, an online risk consultancy company, to create a Web usage policy guide for its partners to offer to customers. “We came up with best practices, including some sample language, so a business can self-select what its concerns are and then see recommendations for Web usage security policies,” explains Yin. He adds that vendor tools such as the policy guide are even more important to VARs working in the SMB market. In that market, customers often lack IT staff to monitor usage or remediate any malware triggered by Web surfing, plus they have limited access to policy development resources. “Web surfing is not going away, so we need to change the way businesses approach it instead,” says Yin.