Employers across Shropshire are being urged to consider monitoring and blocking web content to prevent situations like that at the DVLA in which seven office workers were suspended for “inappropriate” comments posted on Facebook.

IT experts in the county say there are four groups of web content that employers should consider blocking from their employees; unsuitable content such as pornography, gambling or firearms, undesirable content such as Facebook, Twitter or dating and gaming sites, dangerous content on websites infected with malware or viruses and fraudulent content which could lead to commercially sensitive data leaving the business.

Chris Pallett, of Bespoke Computing Ltd, says: “Google reports that social networks and blogs now account for 25 per cent of all time spent online in the UK.

“And the top five personal internet uses for employees includes personal email, instant messaging, social networking, buying – on sites such as Amazon and Ebay, and multimedia sites like Youtube and iPlayer.”

Julian Hubble, sales and marketing manager at Draytek, which supplies web and internet content filtering, said: “The Internet provides your business with an effective, useful and often essential facility. Your staff can use it to find quick answers, liaise with customers, send and receive emails and many other productive tasks.

“Unfortunately, the Internet also provides the opportunity for mis-use and staff using your Internet facility for time-wasteful activities are costing you. Even more importantly these activities can put your businesses computers and network at risk.

“A recent survey of 10,000 employees indicated that 44 per cent admitted to spending time on the Internet for personal use, for up to 2.1 hours per day.”

The DVLA office staff are currently facing disciplinary action after being caught writing personal comments on the social networking site.

“Monitoring or restricting Internet usage is a good idea to boost staff productivity, improve security and reduce risks of your employees using the connection for illegal or offensive activity,” added Mr Pallett.

“You don’t have to take the large stick approach with web monitoring.  I’ve seen one example where monitoring and sharing a report around the office of which websites people have viewed was sufficient to make an impact.  No blocking was involved.

“There is also the softer approach of HR policy; though whilst an Internet acceptable use policy might cover you eight out of 10 times, when an accidental click results in a virus that brings down your network, your policy won’t help.”

A number of monitoring systems are used by business owners including allowing personal use of the Internet outside of working hours, such as the start or end of the day and at lunch time, enforcing daily allowances for personal use of the Internet that can be used throughout the day as required by the employee, with  Internet access blocked when the allowance has been consumed or applying different filtering policies to different groups of people within the business based on their role.

For more information about monitoring, which can cost from as little as £35 per year, visit www.bespokecomputing.com or contact Bespoke Computing Ltd for advice on 0845 004 3025.