Should Employers Restrict Access to Free Online Services?

Many struggle to weigh employees’ needs against security concerns

9 January 2015

Hundreds of free online cloud-based services like Skype and Google Drive have been adopted in the workplace, often unbeknownst to employers. These include file-sharing and Web conferencing tools, social media platforms, and programs that can build surveys and coordinate schedules. Skyhigh Networks, a cloud security software company, in Cupertino, Calif., found that employees at the average company access 831 such services.

While some companies overlook the use of such programs, others are concerned about protecting the organizations’ information, such as company documents, data, and passwords that might be shared on such platforms. General Electric, for example, monitors what its employees use and will block a service it considers harmful. Another, Cisco Systems, provides an electronic library of approved services; any attempt to use an unauthorized program merits a call or e-mail from the IT department explaining why it’s not a good idea.

Should companies decide which free cloud-based services its employees can use? How might this help or harm business?

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