> Internet Shopping For Christmas

Internet Shopping For Christmas

Posted on Saturday, December 5, 2009 | No Comments

I was handed a rather interesting form at work today, which advertised an internet filtering solution that I’d personally never heard of – but really, it could have been an advert from just about any company in the internet filtering business (you know the one, its not quite as glamorous as “Show Business” I admit, but there is no business like that!).

Anyway, it wasn’t so much the company or the technology that caught my attention, but rather the claim the leaflet makes that made me read on. It proclaims thusly: “Staff plan two days Christmas shopping at work”. The article reads as follows:

“According to a survey conducted on behalf of ISACA, a non-profit association of 86,000 information technology (IT) professionals, employees plan to spend nearly two full working days (14.4 hours) on average shopping online from a work computer this Christmas.

One in 10 plans to spend at least 30 hours shopping online at work. Convenience (34%) is the biggest motivator, according to those polled.

Despite an economy expected to show flat or declining holiday retail sales, the second annual “Shopping on the Job: Online Holiday Shopping and Workplace Internet Safety” survey found that fully half of those surveyed plan to shop online for Christmas using a work computer.

The potential danger of shopping online is that it can open the door to viruses, spam and phishing attacks that invade the workplace and cost enterprises thousands per employee in lost productivity and potentially millions in destruction or compromise of business data.

“With the Internet now available to almost any employee in the workplace, it’s unrealistic to think that companies can or should completely stop the use of work computers for online shopping,” said Robert Stroud, international vice president of
ISACA.”


That last quote really sounded the alarm bells in my head – “it’s unrealistic to think that companies can or should completely stop the use of work computers for online shopping”, which to my mind is complete rubbish! We’ve just gone through exactly that process at my place of work – blocking all but a pre-approved white list of websites for all employees, meaning that only business related websites can be accessed.

Whilst I disagreed with the notion of closing our Internet communication platform down to our users, potentially stifling our users creativity and ability to research new methodologies, new thinking, new ideas and gain important business knowledge on their specialist subjects.

I’m all for opening up the internet and allowing people to choose how, when and the best times to access the internet to allow the living within the 21st Century and enjoy the benefits the web brings to successfully managing what is already an often already complicated home/work life balance; just as I’m fully behind the opening up the social networking sites at work for all of the same reasons. However, these things all come at a cost and reliance upon the user knowing when to surf and when to work. Staying productive and getting things done is absolutely essential for any business to make money and we all know how distracting the Internet can be at times and the need for proper filtering to be put in place for some website categories.

If there was one site I would love to open up at work, it would be Twitter – it’s the perfect internet platform for just about everything – open the 140 character messaging service and block everything else that isn’t work related. News, social networking, business related activities, everything right there in one site – centrally located. Alright, you can’t shop on the site or play any sort of meaningful games or browse endless photographs like you can on Facebook, but that’s the point. It provides just enough information to keep users informed and connected to the online world, yet doesn’t distract them forever from their day to day tasks – a quick glance every now and again doesn’t result in massive loss of productivity.

The problem – like all things – especially in a company such as the one I work in, is protecting data, credit cards, customer information, negativity, etc. For all of the upsides to opening Twitter at work, the downsides are far greater (in our office). That’s not to say it will be everywhere, but enterprise sized businesses cannot rely on “trust” and “goodwill” of disgruntled employees not to release this sensitive information into the public domain. This is why my vision of an open internet platform at work will never become a reality.

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