SMEs urged to manage staff internet use

Staff Writer on
SMEs urged to manage staff internet use

Many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are ignoring policies to manage non-essential, personal use of the internet at work as they move toward hosted and cloud computing applications.

A report by analyst firm Quocirca for service provider Easynet Connect looked at how internet use by SMEs differs across the UK.

The report suggests that SMEs seem relatively relaxed when it comes to employees using the internet for personal use at work, with only 18 per cent imposing a complete ban and 49 per cent employing a formal internet policy.

However, this means that roughly a third of SMEs surveyed have no formal internet policy at all, thereby compromising their increasingly important internet bandwidth.

When asked how they use the internet at work, 93 per cent of employees cited general web browsing, while just over half visit social networking sites, and almost a third use instant messaging.

"As a rising number of core business applications become web-based, it is important that personal internet use does not compromise the performance of these applications," said Chris Stening, managing director of Easynet Connect.

"However, it is also important for SMEs to strike a balance with their employees. A complete ban is not the answer because, while some internet users can consume a lot of resources, most simply wish to check their emails or do some online banking, which consumes less bandwidth."

Stening believes that a compromise can be reached which allows employees to engage in online activities without hindering the company's core online applications.

"Most small and medium businesses do not measure personal use of the internet at work, potentially compromising their internet connection," said Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at Quocirca and author of the report.

"As the internet has become a strategic business resource, companies need to identify suitable policy controls and protective measures to ensure they have sufficient bandwidth to cope with business needs.

"Those allowing personal use of the corporate internet connection by employees must understand its impact and plan their capacity and services to accommodate these requirements."

The research pointed out that many smaller businesses are turning to software-as-a-service and other managed services as a way of accessing enterprise-class applications without the significant capital outlay. This makes it even more important that they have the service level agreements in place with their ISP, and that employees do not hog the vital bandwidth for personal use.

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