Web monitoring to save managers' time

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Web monitoring to save managers' time

Bill Goodwin
A Leeds bathroom and bedroom furniture manufacturer aims to free up hours of management time by rolling out software to police Internet use by staff.

Managers and IT staff at the Symphony Group spend up to four hours a week checking log files to ensure the company's 250 workers are using the Web for work-related activities only.

As well as wasting company time, misuse of e-mail and the Internet can expose business to legal risks through defamatory or obscene content.

Although Symphony's Internet policy bars staff from using the Web to look at shopping, football, or adult sites, enforcing the rules can take up a lot of management time, said IT services manager Craig Monument.

"The only way to enforce the policy is to be reactive. We log all Web accesses and key strokes. We have to manually trawl through the log files or use a Unix script to summarise them," he said.

It can take up to five hours of processing time each week to produce a 250-page summary of the log files and another four hours for IT staff to go through it.
In practice, this means scanning through the text for words that could indicate that staff have been looking at adult sites. Often there is not time to check whether staff have been looking at other non-work related sites.

Monument said, "The policy is that the Web is for business use. The only way to enforce the policy is reactively - someone noticing that someone is looking at a site they shouldn't be. It's difficult to enforce for 250 staff."

The group's IT department has been testing Baltimore's Websweeper software, which automatically blocks non-work related sites, since October and plans to install it across the company.

Monument said, "We can't quantify the return on investment, but the reduction in administration and processing time will be significant."

Symphony has been using the Mailsweeper software package for two years. The package filters out program and picture files and other non-work related extensions.

"Symphony has a strict policy. E-mail is for business use only. Non-document type attachments are not allowed. Exe files, pictures and games are filtered out and the IT department alerted they are coming in," said Monument.

The group plans to invest in a HP dual Pentium 3 server to run the Web monitoring software.
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