Automated tools will monitor employee use of E-mail, phones, and the Net, and a lot of companies are happy to use them

Darrell Dunn, Contributor

February 24, 2006

3 Min Read

Rafferty uses the information to create logs that document the number of calls made and time spent on each call, and the results are posted for the reps to view. "They can really get a feel of what it takes to make 100 calls a day, and what pace they need for that kind of performance," he says. "It's easy to convince yourself that you're very busy, but you may not be very efficient."

Bumps In The Road

Sometimes monitoring is implemented because there are problems with the IT systems or network that are difficult to track down. Tony Davis, manager of network services for Potomac Hospital, a 180-bed health-care facility in Woodbridge, Va., manages about 1,500 computing nodes used by about 1,200 employees. The hospital is divided into three shifts, and it generally runs batch jobs on the network overnight and on weekends but found that its computing resources were limited by a lack of bandwidth. "When you're running billing applications, or some other batch job or nightly backup, you don't want those being slowed," Davis says.

Employee SurveillanceHe installed Locate software from eTelemetry and other network-management systems such as Fluke's OptiView, Trend Micro's Office Scan version 7 and Server Protect version 5.58, a firewall, and diagnostic tools. Locate provided Davis with the name, phone number, computer address, physical location, and department of each person behind a specific IP address entering the hospital's network.

He found that employees were using the hospital's Internet connection to access radio stations and download music and video files, contributing to the bandwidth problem. The monitoring software also proved useful in meeting audit requirements for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires that only authorized workers have access to patient records.

The software provides the hospital with a more flexible way to monitor Web usage than firewalls that block access based on keywords. "In the health-care industry, there are a lot of words that would normally be deemed less than appropriate for an engineering or retail firm that you can't arbitrarily block for doctors or nurses," Davis says.

Monitoring doesn't necessarily mean that certain employee activities will be banned. It can be used to develop policies that work for everyone. Mike Kline, manager of network services for KB Toys, a national toy chain with more than 600 stores, was looking for a way to monitor and control Internet use but didn't want to completely block access. In addition to developing policies about employees' computer use, the company deployed software from Websense that provides each employee with an active directory account that validates whether individual users are allowed to surf the Web, blocks inappropriate sites, and applies quotas for personal and recreational sites.

"A clerical employee might want to surf the Web to order some books during lunch," Kline says. "The software would allow them to gain access, but after 30 minutes they'd receive a message that they had exceeded their quota for the day."

The growing number of automated monitoring tools like Websense make it easier for employers to keep an eye on what employees are doing than in the old days--when you really had to keep an eye on them.

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