May 2005

Internet Access in Your Business

Internet Access is has become a basic business essential. Like a garage door opener or a dishwasher that were once considered luxuries, a computer with access to the internet is now a basic appliance in every household. Still many companies are hesitant to bring the internet into their operations because of the potential problems it may bring. Some of the leading concerns are viruses, employees wasting time, internet video games and system maintenance.

That’s the downside. How about the upside of using the internet for your business? Some of the big benefits include e-mail between employees. It’s like voice mail, only better because you can send and keep a written record, send attachments, and easily forward the item to another person without spending 20 minutes explaining the issues again. Don’t forget the same applies to your customers.

Purchasing. Now you can get up-to-date product prices and order parts and material in less time and at significantly lower cost. Recently I needed some special insulation, self-sticking with a metallic outer covering, and the local suppliers (yes, even Home Depot and Lowes) were out, and the staff knew little of the details. I went to the internet and in 10 minutes had found 3 suppliers each with a lower price including shipping, and the material was IN STOCK!

The question is how to bring in this valuable tool. Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

Rule 1. Employee cannot use the internet for profit. If you get money for what you do, it is not allowed at work. This will stop the Ebay and self-employed web-based business from running on your dime.

Rule 2. No sexually-oriented material. This means no pictures, text, anything related to sexual, neither directly or indirectly. This is a big issue because of cartoons, pictures, etc. Make no exceptions. Each of us have our own sexual preferences, at home. This subject does not belong at work.

Rule 3: Must stop viewing immediately, if any one objects

This is critical, because you never know what someone finds objectionable. Simply put, if some one mentions they have a problem with what is on the screen, it must be immediately removed without question. No justification is required. If the employee feels strongly about the screen saver of the web site they have visited, the issue should be brought to the attention of the manager or owner. People come to work with various backgrounds and personal experiences. Maybe they have lost someone very close in an auto accident and when they see a picture of a car crash it brings back vivid and painful memories.

These employee rules help with usage, but implementation is the other half. The following guidelines help resolve some of these other concerns.

Implementation Guidelines

Do not download files from the internet. This is to protect you from PC viruses.

Use internet-based email - this is mail that you can access from any location and the files never reach you computers unless you download a file, which is covered under Implementation Guideline 1.

Use a Firewall Router, e.g., Linksys. This is plug-and-play (easy to install) and will keep most, if not all, unauthorized people off your computers. Cost is under $100 for the top-of-the-line router/firewall.

Access to the internet has, for many companies, the same status as the phone. It is on every desk, and you are expected to use it to benefit to the company. Used wisely, it makes communication easier and gives you instant access to vendors and suppliers, as well as business-related organizations and associations. With care, it can be safely added to your company’s set of business tools.


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