Access to the Internet is vital for doing business and any practice that uses a Centricity Hosting or Allscripts Hosting. But without safeguards in place, malware and data leaks can be a mouse click away from disaster. Network firewalls and antivirus software are common in workplaces, but more small companies are increasingly turning to Web filtering tools for additional protection. Setting limits on what Web content employees can access can be essential for businesses involved in health care, high finance, or government work bound by regulatory requirements.
More than 41 percent of small businesses use some kind of Web filtering, and two-thirds of large companies do, according to IDC research.
Why? Three main reasons –
1. Wasted staff time (and company $$) doing personal shopping, banking, multimedia, social media sites, email, etc.
2. Bandwidth – watching musical cats on Youtube and streaming music can hog your valuable internet bandwidth, and cause slowness in the web-based applications that your staff uses for work.
3. Viruses and malware – if you didn’t know already it’s not hard to pick up infections on computers through “drive by” web pages, phishing scams, or just virus-laden attachments to emails. Then once that PC is compromised, not only will that take IT time to cleanup but could spread to other PCs on the network.
Now as IDC analyst Phil Hochmuth notes, “You don’t want to shut down the Web to employees because they can get a lot of productivity out of it.” Nor might you want to deprive employees of an innocent diversion that helps them recharge at lunch. Yet it’s your company’s right to limit usage of its computers and networks. Vulnerabilities do exist in your network and they are a very real threat to your business and should be addressed. Yes, there will be false positives, annoyances, complaints, and some need for regular updating and tweaking. But done well it will be a good thing for a clinic office environment, minimizing security risks and encourage productivity without creating an environment of mistrust and paranoia.
Acceptable Use Policy – Does your office have a written policy, reviewed by all staff on appropriate use of office computers? Points to consider would be company use only, no personal use, no pornographic or insensitive websites or images, no hacking or damaging actions, no unauthorized software installation. You’ll also need to think about personal devices like smartphones – are staff going to be allowed to put these on the company wireless and have unrestricted internet access there? Or simply use their phone data access to do the same.
Hardware – One method to do both content filtering and intrusion protection is at or just behind your network firewall/gateway to the internet. At this spot a device can monitor and allow/forbid traffic from all wired and wireless devices on your company network. Many office firewalls such as Sonicwall include content filtering, which pulls down regular vendor updates on internet websites, places them into categories, then allows IT or the office manager to select which categories will be allowed and which blocked. Generally there is also an ability to whitelist and blacklist specific web addresses as well, should the categories be too broad and need tweaking for office needs. Other vendors such as Barracuda and Untangle market devices which are set up just behind the internet gateway, and do the same inspection and filtering there.
Software – Another way to filter internet content can be through installation of software on the network, at one of three spots: (1) network server configured to be internet proxy for all computers e.g. Microsoft Forefront, SafeSquid
Superusers – In the real office world, it must be mentioned that business owners and certain staffers are going to want or need to be excluded from content filtering. Perhaps it’s a staffer who is tasked with much internet scouting and digging for company purposes, or perhaps doctors who want to have unrestricted internet use in their downtime at the
For further information and discussion of the best web filtering techniques for your office,