Web filtering can deliver many positive benefits for both organizations and end-users that go far beyond the basic implementation of preventing access to named websites or particular types of websites. Filtering technology is predominantly a security tool, one that provides an essential layer of centralized, server-side protection from security threats before they manifest on client devices.
The benefits and capabilities of web filtering solutions fall into four areas:
»Productivity – Web filtering can allow an organization to address excessive use of non-work websites by either preventing or limiting access to services such as social networking, online auctions, online gambling, personal web-based email, celebrity gossip, torrents, file download sites and so on. This can be done in numerous ways, ranging from a total blockage of access requests, down to allowing specific users and work groups, or simply allowing access at certain times such as lunch time or before and after normal working hours. The latter approaches can help companies balance the needs and morale of staff while at the same time ensuring that day-to-day activity is not hindered by web-based distractions.
»Minimizing liability – Companies must take all reasonable steps to protect themselves and their staff from liability. For example, website content that seems funny to some may be considered racially or sexually explicit, offensive or discriminatory by others. Case law in several countries has confirmed that the employer is responsible for the web activities of its staff, particularly when these activities involve illegal or offensive material. By implementing web filtering technology, not only can an organization prevent access to much of this content before it is accessed, but through associated web monitoring technology, it can also maintain accurate and detailed logs to show who attempted to access inappropriate content and when, allowing appropriate action to be taken as necessary and for evidence to be produced to support claims of inappropriate IT use at the workplace.
»Network and bandwidth management – The changing nature of the way we use the web and the way content is expressed on websites is placing growing pressure on broadband connections both at home and at the workplace. Growth of video-on-demand sites such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Hulu has triggered a substantial increase in bandwidth consumption. This is in addition to the increased use of video on everything from corporate websites to retailers to reference services. The result is that inoffensive casual browsing and even legitimate work-related browsing can place strain on both an Internet connection and the internal network. Web filtering and monitoring helps organizations understand the types of sites and content that is accessed at the workplace and at what time, helping with capacity planning and highlighting areas for further investigation in the case of casual browsing or upsurges in traffic around key events such as the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, major news events and other video-heavy content events.
»Data security – Web filtering delivers an essential layer of protection from malware, phishing and other online scams long before client computers and end-users would be exposed to them. By blocking access to known bad sites at source, end-users can be protected from straying into the path of malware and can avoid being duped by scams such as phishing attacks, while malware already present on devices can be limited in its ability to access the web to further infect a machine.
Posted with permission from safesquid