Low Tide for Corporate Web Surfing

For those fortunate enough to have Internet access on their desktop, life before the World Wide Web seems almost incomprehensible. The sheer quantity of research, for example, that can be obtained with just a few clicks of the mouse – rather than pouring over paper-based documentation or exchanging voice messages – probably translates into several hours of work saved each month.

But with any great power comes great responsibility, not to mention the need for a good deal of self-discipline. The concern that Internet access is actually impeding productivity has given rise to the corporate filtering software marketplace.

Riding this rising wave of corporate Internet usage monitoring is JSB surfControl (Scotts Valley, Calif.), a division of UK-based JSB Software Technologies. SurfControl’s line of software solutions is designed to "help network administrators identify who is using the Internet within a corporation and for what reasons," says Steve Purdham, president of JSB surfControl.

SurfControl’s primary objective is to ensure employees use their business Internet connections for business purposes, according to Purdham. While a surfControl survey of senior executives indicates the majority are concerned with productivity drop-offs due to Internet distractions and feel the Internet is unacceptable for personal use at the office, "most employees readily admit to personal use of the Internet at work," Purdham says.

The corporate filtering market is expected to see rapid growth due to four basic areas of concern that arise from employee misuse of the Internet: productivity losses, bandwidth limitations, security threats and legal repercussions, he notes.

SurfControl’s products employ the philosophy of Positive Filtering, allowing businesses to define their business context either corporately or at the individual and departmental level. Once business context is defined, surfControl can then auto-classify Internet access and manage access against the same criteria.

SurfControl offers Internet usage monitoring and filtering within the same family of products, which includes Scout, ScoutPlus and SuperScout. The Scout family of products function using "pass by" technology and reside on a dedicated NT server within the network to avoid any bottlenecking that might be caused by residing on a proxy server, gateway or firewall, according to Purdham. Placing the Scout products in a "pass through" position on the network would be the "equivalent of putting a stop light on a freeway," he says.

The key to surfControl’s success is the Scout product line’s ability to provide data for tracking usage and potential problem areas, according to Julia Pickar, an industry analyst with Zona Research (Redwood City, Calif.). "SurfControl was quick out of the gate, and its value-add is mostly in the content of the product’s database." SurfControl’s ability to offer three levels of its product is also expected to help its cause while competing against products from companies such as NetPartners Internet Solutions Inc. (San Diego) and NetNanny Software International Inc. (Bellevue, Wash.).

While the demand for corporate filtering products is not "overwhelming" at this time, Pickar anticipates the market will continue to pick up steam. "The market has the potential to grow," she says. "Just having a [corporate filtering] tool will deter employees," without even having to put the blocking function in use.

Late September saw the introduction of SuperScout, as well as the release of Version 2.2 of both Scout and ScoutPlus. Scout is priced at $99 for 20 users and $1,995 for an unlimited number of users. ScoutPlus is priced at $299 for 20 users and $4,950 for an unlimited number of users. SuperScout is priced at $2,000 for 100 users and $4,000 for the first 250 users.