In THE mid-1990s, when companies began using the web as a business tool, porn was the primary cause of internet misuse in the workplace. Registered porn sites far outnumbered legitimate websites in cyberspace, attracting at-work visitors in droves. In fact, according to SexTracker, more than 70% of porn was downloaded between the 9-to-5 workday.

Two years later, as file swapping services like Napster and Gnutella dominate the headlines, swapping MP3 files presents one of the biggest workplace problems, draining corporate bandwidth and productivity. Internet management software company Websense reports that there has been almost 2,000% growth in the number of MP3 sites in the past six months.

However, none of these problems compares to what is predicted to be the next big workplace threat on the horizon – streaming video. Last year, more than nine million employees accessed streaming media at work and 36% of all web surfers worldwide accessed some form of streaming media.

Business is booming for streaming media sites; the market will grow twentyfold to $20.5bn (£14.4bn) by 2004, according to the Internet Research Group.

Everyone's getting in on it
Streaming media has certainly proven to be a legitimate and useful business tool. But the technology is now being put to use for other purposes, from network websites with TV show clips to radio station sites broadcasting music via the web. Even non-entertainment sites are getting into the act, as companies broadcast chief executives' speeches via Realvideo and financial sites broadcast audio clips of interviews from management. And Miramax Studios is to be the first major movie studio to distribute a feature-length film online – Guinevere.

What Miramax isn't saying is that the availability of streaming content, combined with high-speed internet access at work, has made corporate networks the main place to download, view and store this material. In fact, Miramax's Guinevere requires a T-1 or T-3 connection – the kind which would normally only be found in workplaces – to download the 500MB file within an hour.

Aside from the implicit productivity loss of one employee downloading a video file for an hour, the hidden costs are numerous. In addition to download time, video viewing eats another two hours of employee work time, not to mention slowing the network for work-related internet activity. And that doesn't even begin to take into account the use of valuable corporate data storage space.

Protecting your business
According to ZD Net and Nielsen/NetRatings, 50 million people will get web content via streaming media this year and people with high-speed connections to the web – frequently found in corporate environments – are 50% more likely to access streaming media than their dial-up counterparts. How can European corporations combat this next big corporate plague?

Companies should proactively protect corporate resources prior to suffering any losses from streaming media threats. Websense advises corporations to take the following measures of prevention:

  • Establish a clearly defined internet access policy (IAP) outlining appropriate and inappropriate employee internet use.
  • Continually update the IAP as new internet content and technologies, such as MP3s and programme websites, emerge. Employees should always be informed and educated about such changes to the policy.
  • Install employee internet management (EIM) software to manage employee internet use and enforce corporate policy.
  • Be sure to implement EIM software that works in conjunction with a cutting-edge database of new websites downloaded daily, so that you can manage emerging internet content and technologies, such as Napster and other phenomena.

    For more information, contact Johanna Severinsson on 01932 796106 or email and visit the Websense website at

  • Geoff Haggart is vice president, EMEA, at Websense.