A vendor that makes software to protect children from online predators has developed a product for small and midsize businesses that lets management monitor and restrict employee use of instant messaging and the internet.
Zihtec's Internet Control for Businesses, (ICB) blocks instant messaging programs, access to inappropriate web sites and prevents employees from shopping online or taking care of personal business during work hours.
Employers can use the product to restrict internet usage to certain hours of the day, such as lunch breaks, or to restrict online chats to certain departments and to specific times. ICB provides reports to management showing employees' web surfing history and text of discussions they have via instant messaging.
Some firewalls block instant messaging entirely, so "you have it all or you have nothing," says Zihtec founder Gabriel Luu. "The nice part about us is you're still allowed to have usage of everything out there, but it's restricted and controlled by the business owner."
Restricting Internet and IM to certain times of the day is not a unique feature, however, says Forrester senior analyst Natalie Lambert, who has not been briefed by Zihtec.
"I consider this good functionality. I wouldn't consider it unique," she says.
It makes more sense for a business to deploy products from McAfee or Websense because they also provide comprehensive protection against hackers, malicious code and other threats, she says.
"This (Zihtec offering) absolutely looks like a standalone product for employee productivity," Lambert says. "If they're not doing web content filtering, I see very little value deploying this application by itself."