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My Company has recently started blocking a great number more websites than it used to and circumventing this is nearly impossible.

I think it is completely reasonable for a company to block social networking sites and leisure sites which is how it was in the past.

However, now the blocked site range has widened to personal Email like GMail, blogs and almost any other non-approved site. The main problem being that there is also no method of requesting access.

I could make the case that I use blogs as reference as software developer and I use Gmail only for short times during break times. Security could make the case that they monitor the traffic and many users abuse the network connection. As a low level software engineer I am afraid to bring this up to my boss or security because it would probably look bad.

I would like my access to Gmail and blogs returned but as a low level engineer my choices are probably limited. What do I need in order to make a business case for allowing me access to certian sites?

  • 3
    Blocking blogs and gmail is the norm in large corporations. From what I know it's usually in response to some security audit. Now you say you're a software engineer, I'd say it's time to learn about proxies :). – MrFox Oct 12 '12 at 18:47
  • This question is not a good fit for the SE format. You are asking for a judgement on your companies policy and advice on what to do. We can help you find a way to achieve a goal but you need to tell us what your goal is. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 12 '12 at 18:50
  • @Chad - I think it is evident from the post and its tone that the goal is for the OP to regain access to Gmail and blogs... – Oded Oct 12 '12 at 18:56
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    All you can do is request access. To get access you will need a business case to get the exception. So I have changed the question to how can you make a business case. Does that work for you? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 12 '12 at 19:36
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    Are you unable to take a smart phone or tablet with cell data into your workplace to scratch this itch? I'm addicted to blogs and email also, so I understand your frustration. – Jim In Texas Oct 12 '12 at 20:49
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The company has every right to block access to sites that it sees as being non-productive for its employees.

When you visit your personal email, read a blog or just about any website that is not work related, you are using company bandwidth, network connection, computing resources and of course, your time. These all cost the company and as such it has every right to block what it sees as non-essential.

You say this is an issue of security, which it may also be, but from the description of what was blocked and what is now also blocked, I suspect it is a matter of perceived productivity and use of company resources doing personal things.

What you need to do is accept that this is what the higher ups have decided. You can take this up with your boss on a higher level - that of what makes employees productive. A good point in favour of allowing access (not just for you, but for everyone), is that happy employees are more productive - restricting access in this way does not make for happy employees, rather the opposite - people get disgruntled, which is most probably not what the higher ups are looking for.

Another point to make is that blocking such access does not mean that people will stop - they will simply put some energy into circumventing the technical issues (so, lost productivity right there), while still accessing these sites by some other means (personal smart phones and tablets with unlimited bandwidth for instance).

In short, the way to handle this is not to ask for special dispensation (be honest with yourself - do you really deserve it? Over everyone else?), but try to change the mindset.

If there are certain blocked sites that you find are making you less effective in your job, that's a good reason to get them allowed for you and everyone in your position. But you do need to make the case - you need to explain why having access to these sites makes you a more effective worker and increase your productivity.

I most certainly advise against directly circumventing the different means - in particular if that means installing unauthorized software on company property. If (when) you get caught it could cost you your job.

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    This is a good answer, but blocking access to blogs for a software developer is a horrible idea. Blogs can have a wealth of software development information that will help you get your job done. At this point you might as well block all outside internet access. I think the loss in productivity for people occasionally browsing non-work related blogs is far less than the boost in productivity for those reading technical blogs. – maple_shaft Oct 12 '12 at 19:29
  • @maple_shaft - not disagreeing with you. But OP needs to pose the issue in terms of productivity. And access to gmail is most certainly not something the OP can sell in those terms. – Oded Oct 12 '12 at 19:30
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    The biggest "unauthorized" circumvention I ever saw was when distant central corporate IT policy prohibited just about everything but the marketing department (where I contracted) needed access to Twitter and Facebook as well as a number of industry blogs and to setup their own blog (anything with 'blog' in the url or title was blocked). It was circumvented by the dept purchasing their own Comcast cable account and setting up their own wireless router. – jfrankcarr Oct 12 '12 at 23:32
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Separation of "need for work" and "nice to have for leisure"

Regardless of the trend I've heard in IT news lately that the number of personal devices on work networks are on the rise... for the moment, your cause is better served by separating the need for sites that help you solve problems (like blogs on technical topics) and sites that provide services that help you balance your work and personal life (Gmail).

There IS a justifiable concern about personal email out there from a security perspective, and there's not a lot of footing to say that you have a right as an employee to use work resources for personal business. There has always been a flex in the work place around this sort of stuff, but at the moment, the tide is swinging in the other direction.

Mixing these two needs together will weaken your cause talking to the higher-ups.

Know the Blocking Process

OK - looking just at blogs, which do help solve technical work problems...

First, see if there's a way to easily separate the good from the bad. For example, I find a significant number of tech blogs that are useful are hosted by word press. Not so many are on LiveJournal. A few are independantly hosted and these are usually not the problem. Get yourself clued in on the nature of the hosting of the blogs you need the most.

Also - check in with IT and see what you can learn about the blocking process? Is it by domain? URL? IP address? Category? Do they have the capability or intent to allow certain types of users? Ever?

Be ready to work within the capabilities of the tools they are using. I can feel confident asserting that there is a technical way to grant an expection (every place I've worked has had a way) - but that there may be limitations on why they won't. Before starting the battle, understand the limitations.

Stick to the work - build a case

Figure out what the limitation is when you can't get the information? Is there another place to find it? Why are blogs better than other resources? What is the penalty imposed when you can't get the information? Be ready with good cases from the pre-blocking time. Stay away from vague references or hopes for the future. You need an actual case where a blog helped get work done better.

Know the tradeoffs between what you want, and what IT wants. Figure that there is a justifiable cases that they have to be fair - if you get a waiver, so should others - are your needs consistent and consolidated enough that you can help write a policy that makes sense across the board?

Cycle it through with your bosses.

This is not the kind of endeavor your boss wants to hear of after the fact.

But you can kick off the discussion with your boss in the framework of "I have a problem, I have an idea for a solution, what I can do to move forward with it?" which is almost certainly more productive. This is where knowing the real business impact, and sticking to only the sites that help with work is crucial. If it seems like you are trying to just help yourself, you won't get buy in.

Agree with the boss on how to approach this idea, and the move forward keeping him in the loop. Be prepared for a "no", but be ready to challenge it with "then how else should I find this information?" Be ready to point out that mixing work and personal life by surfing for these blogs on your phone is not the answer, either, as the form factor can be painful, and we're blurring the line, again, between work and home life.

Summary

You may not win this one - I know I haven't always won this particular battle. I've managed certain kinds of blocking exceptions, but there were times where download of certain open source tools were so debilitatingly impossible, that I actually left the company because I truly believed there was no investment in success of key business objectives.

But when I want this kind of change here's my step by step process:

1 - identify exactly what I want to get un-blocked

2 - identify why it's killing my productivity and why it impacts more than just me.

3 - have an informal chat with IT and find out their limitations and issues

4 - prepare a proposal

5 - meet up with my boss, look for consensus

Is it your job to fix the problem? No, but you really have two choices in any situation like this - try to change it or accept it. I think if you stick to the things that slow down your work, you have a good chance of at least being heard, if not actually getting what you want.

5

When you are trying to solve a technical problem and you cannot view a particular blog, then ask for that one in an email to your system admins with a copy to your boss and say why specifically you need to see it.

Forget about ever getting gmail back.

  • How do you know blog post is useful without reading it first? – Preet Sangha Oct 20 '12 at 8:08
  • YOu know that it came up in a keyword search for your porblem. Then you ask for access. – HLGEM Oct 22 '12 at 13:22
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You that that there is "no method of requesting access" to blocked sites, and that "as a low level software engineer you are afraid to bring this up to your boss."

Well, sorry, either you need to bring it up with your boss, or you need to accept that you will never have the tools to do your job effectively.

I'm sure that when you google for information on a particular problem you're trying to solve, you often get search results which are on programmers' blogs. I know that it's extremely common for me to find good information in blog posts. Get some examples of things you have searched for, and search results that looked promising but which you were unable to follow up on due to the internet filtering. Present these to your boss.

Alternatively, speak to some of the other (less low level) software engineers in your team. If they are as frustrated as you are, see if you can get them to produce some examples too, and then present them to your boss as a group.

Ultimately, it's not impossible that your efforts will fail. It's not unknown - especially in large companies - for bureaucracy and process to outweigh trivial things like actually being able to do your job. If you find this hard to live with, it's definitely worth your while to focus on seeking employment only at smaller, more nimble, companies. Big and small companies each have their own very different pros and cons, you have to figure out which style works best for you.

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