Online Gaming – Threat to Business Productivity?

The latest in gaming technology has brought its amazing entertainment value to a new high for both children and adults, but is there a real threat to businesses who allow their employees to install games or use browser games during business hours?

The question has been posed many times and the answers we find as IT providers are surprising.

In our experience, 75% of businesses don’t have any issues with employees using their company resources for gaming….which leaves 25% that do.

To be clear, we are referring to actual games not social networking sites like facebook or twitter.

Those sites also have games but in most cases since you have to login to the website first, there is an extra layer of access that is required before you can play.

Casino gambling style sites and browser gaming sites (where you can play games inside firefox or IE) are becoming more and more popular for their quick and easy access and high quality of graphics and quick game play.

What exactly is the threat?

Well, there are a few threats. Technology wise, installation of software whether a browser plugin or a downloaded program (that most casino sites use), can be against company policy and IT policy for what is considered acceptable use.

In some cases, just accessing the sites can be considered a breach of policy.

Another threat simply can be malware or viruses that lesser known sites can transmit (knowingly or not) to your system.

This most definately is the most annoying threat for IT because it can cause all kinds of problems and ultimately has a risk of taking down the system unnecessarily.

Of course, there is always the time consuming aspect of the employees attention when they are obsessed with a game. In today’s society, addiction to online gaming whether it is gambling or MMORPG is a very real issue.

And lastly, some sites require knowledge of your internet connection in order to authorize your usage which means you put the company’s internet connection information into the hands of a 3rd party who could potentially try and use that in a malicious manner.

What can be done?

Our recommendations are to limit access to gaming sites (and indeed any distracting sites) first by policy.

1) Make sure your employees know your company’s view on gaming at the office.

2)The next step is to block sites using technology. Routers and servers can be configured to block access to certain websites.

3)If you suspect activity that is under the radar, there are tracking and logging software that can be used to find out what the users are doing and playing on their computers.

This topic may seem somewhat trivial to most small businesses where users are within eye and earshot of each other, but keep in mind that there is a direct relationship between the size of a company and the closeness of which managers can observe their employees.

Some companies may allow employees access to these sites as perks or rewards. In fact, we know of a company that will “gift” small dollar amounts to employees for specific websites so that employees can purchase items or gamble as a reward for performance.

The most important step as a business owner or manager is to KNOW your own company policy, and make sure to be aware of the potential that online gaming can have on the employees.

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