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Containing the employee IT threat

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Quocirca's changing channels Avoiding bad publicity, protecting brand name and maximising customer confidence are all high on the list of worries of businesses when considering their ability to comply with the various laws and regulations that govern them.

Some businesses pay lip service to some regulations and others find ways around them altogether (witness those delisting from US stock exchanges and joining other markets get away from Sarbanes-Oxley). But most regulations simply have to be complied with and laws are laws.

For those tasked with overseeing that businesses are in line with the rules and regulations, and indeed, that the business maintains high standards in its dealing with customers, suppliers and partners, IT just makes the headache worse. With so many channels of communications open and the mingling of their business and personal activities, businesses more are open to risk from the actions of their employees than ever before.

It is not that all employees are intrinsically bad, most are not, but any employee is open to distractions from what they should be doing, whether it be selling stuff on eBay, instant messaging their friends (either side of the firewall), or even, writing their personal blog on animal rights or adding Wikipedia entries on their home town. All this has an impact on employee productivity, but can also lead to damaging communications with the outside world. Some employees will set out to deliberately damage their employer either because they harbour a grudge or see a chance for financial gain. Others just do plain stupid things like accidentally forwarding confidential information to external parties or exchanging lewd images with their friends.

What ever the employees do, accidental or deliberate, in the name of their employer or not, all these communications are seen to come from the business and have the potential to harm its reputation and put it in breech of regulations or the law.

Trusting employees is not enough; it is too easy for them to make mistakes. But businesses can not afford to be stifled by banning employees from using the very tools that are supposed to make businesses open, communicative and productive. The answer has to lie somewhere between the two – having IT systems that allow the actions of employees to be monitored and controlled.

There is nothing new about this - one of the most well known brands in the computer industry, NCR (National Cash Registers) was built on the back of monitoring employees and preventing theft. There are plenty of products available to control employee activities including the use of email, the web and instant messaging. Because these products are monitoring the ports on which these activities take place they can be adapted to monitor new and emerging activities as well.

But many businesses are struggling with the basics. Quocirca research shows that most businesses do not currently consider that they have a compliance oriented architecture that will allow them to achieve this. In fact many think it is unachievable. It may be hard but Quocirca believes it can be done, but businesses will need assistance to get there.

Today few IT vendors have the product portfolio to cover all the ills that can arise from the misuse of IT and certainly none has the best in all areas. But resellers can assemble a portfolio of products to help their customers create a compliance oriented architecture and help those tasked with preserving the good name of the business sleep more easily.

Copyright © 2006,

Bob Tarzey is a service director at Quocirca focused on the route to market for IT products and services in Europe. Quocirca is a UK based perceptional research and analysis firm with expertise in the European and Global IT markets.

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