Baltimore Technologies – WebSweeper 4.0 review

pornography at work? No longer.
Photo of Baltimore Technologies – WebSweeper 4.0
50-user (£1,260 + VAT), then scaled up to 500-user (£5,145 + VAT) and higher, with annual maintenance fee.

Hard on the heels of our review of MailSweeper comes another offering from the big brother school of IT tools. This time it’s Web use that’s under scrutiny. The number of people in the UK who have been sacked because of their use of the Internet while at work is increasing, usually because of actions such as downloading pornography or wasting time in chat rooms.

Although it may seem unfair to a generation that’s grown up with easy access to the Web, this does make sense from an employer’s point of view, in the same way that few companies would willingly allow their employees to spend all day on the phone to their friends. As Scott Adams noted, computers look like work but often aren’t, and sometimes you need software to tell the difference.

Like MailSweeper, WebSweeper is a piece of software that attempts to block access to ‘inappropriate’ material at source. The software is typically installed behind a firewall and downstream of any existing proxy servers, for maximum protection.

Once configured, it acts as a ‘checking proxy’, scanning each and every downloaded Web page for a variety of configurable offences. These can include viruses, executables, JavaScript and VBScript, ActiveX, Java and even cookies. Large downloads can either be blocked or monitored, and the administrator can be e-mailed with information about any new potential ‘threat’.

Initially, the administrator can configure a set of policies that apply across the entire company, but with a bit of tweaking, certain users can be given different sets of browsing rights. So the sales team could be limited to Web access during their lunch break, while the IT department has full access to selected software patch sites, for example. And only the MD (and the IT manager, of course) can get at the porn.

As an additional source of security behind a company firewall, WebSweeper has obvious potential. Users who are used to downloading MP3 files or humorous video files might not be too pleased, but in practise this software could save considerable time and money in terms of bandwidth, technical support and legal costs.

Company: Baltimore Technologies

Contact: 0118 930 1300


Verdict
The widespread policy of allowing employees free access to the Web is changing, and products such as WebSweeper make that change easier. It's bound to be unpopular to start with, but the power it gives IT managers or company directors is probably going to be too attractive to ignore.