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Monday, 27 April 2015 15:17

WatchGuard keeps watch, guards against excessive non-work internet use

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Version 11.10 of the Fireware OS for WatchGuard next-generation firewalls and unified threat monitoring appliances provides a mechanism for enforcing bandwidth and time quotas.

Intended to minimise "time crime" (employees frittering away their working hours on non-work online activities), the new version of WatchGuard's Fireware OS incorporates policy-based restrictions on access to internet resources.

Quotas can be set on the amount of data transferred or the time spent, with the most restrictive limit being enforced first. Policies can be set on groups of users or individuals.

The idea is that organisations set exemptions for resources that employees are supposed to use in their work, such as organisations' own sites and hosted services such as Google Apps, plus software and antivirus update sites (assuming such updates aren't staged through corporate servers).

Anything else - sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and eBay come to mind, as well as games and time sinks such as... oh, xkcd, the Daily Mail and pretty much any of the cheezburger.com sites - gets restricted.

Talking of cheezeburger.com, policies set restrictions by domain name rather than IP addresses to save processing power and to make life easier for administrators. Wildcards can be used to catch all subdomains with one rule.

Limits can be applied to guest users. While you're probably not worried about them wasting their own time, you don't want too much of your bandwidth to be wasted. Nor do you want employees to connect as guest in order to work around their quotas.

"Most companies realise that employees perform better with a breather and limited non-work-related activity, but the key is to find a balance between the two," said WatchGuard director of product management Brendan Patterson.

"Our newest version of Fireware OS, 11.10, makes it easy for IT pros to find the right mix by setting time and data quotas to ensure employees are happy without compromising productivity."

WatchGuard cited a Kansas State University research finding that between 60 and 80% of people's time on the Internet at work has nothing to do with work.

The Fireware update also includes new wizards to make it easier to turn on or update security services, the ability to send logs to two servers, new VPN diagnostics, plus enhancements to Fireware's gateway wireless controller that detect and map any rogue (unauthorised) wireless access points.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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