City and county governments depend on reliable and robust IT networks for most of their operations, but misconfigured computers, streaming music and video, and other Internet use policy violations can strain the network and significantly affect operations. To increase network traffic, clamp down on bandwidth hogs, and save money, time and energy, IT agencies are turning to applications that identify employee activity online.
Inappropriate Web surfing strains the network, which affects mission-critical operations, wastes employees’ time, and lowers productivity. The lack of network monitoring capability leaves human resources and legal departments without a reliable way of documenting Internet use policy violations by employees. When policy violations are suspected, IT departments often are asked to compile evidence for personnel action — a time-consuming task that can result in an extended warning and firing process, frequently ending up with only the most severe cases investigated. Where an employee has faced disciplinary action without proper documentation of the policy violation, the employer risks legal action by the employee.
To reduce costs and liability exposure, cities and counties might consider purchasing an application that can simplify the detection and documentation of unauthorized network activity, revealing who is surfing inappropriate sites or surfing the Web longer than allowed by the acceptable use policy. IT managers can use the tool to assign rate limits to Web sites that stream video, like YouTube or ESPN, so employees do not use a disproportionate share of the government’s finite bandwidth resource for non-work related activity. That way, several people watching ESPN highlights will not affect a department’s ability to access Web-based applications. Visibility and the ability to throttle and block bandwidth availability ensure that all network resources are being used responsibly and efficiently.
Howard County, Md., used a network-monitoring tool to identify and document employees who were using the Internet inappropriately or whose PCs were misconfigured to pull updates directly from a software vendor’s site instead of local servers used for that purpose. Those issues consumed a significant amount of the total available bandwidth and severely impeded the county’s offsite data backups. Once the employees were identified and adjustments were made, the county’s network began working more efficiently.
Network awareness tools also can support power-saving programs that require employees to turn off computers when they are not in use. Instead of physically checking each computer, IT managers can use network visibility applications to identify computers that remain active during off hours and notify employees of policy violations.
The slowing economy and widespread budget cuts have made resource management paramount for cities and counties. Deploying network monitoring technology can not only improve productivity, it also can support green initiatives and network maintenance tasks, resulting in more efficient operations and reduced budgetary strain throughout the organization.
The author is president and CEO of Annapolis, Md.-based eTelemetry.