Product Reviews

Packets: Surfing Surveillance

It’s 1984 all over again — Big Brother IS watching.

You can start a holy war arguing whether businesses have the right to monitor employees’ Internet use — even though many workers do utilize the corporate Internet connection to access inappropriate content, such as adult sites.

I’m not, however, going to get into that here. Instead, I’ll examine SuperScout for Business, one of SurfControl’s Internet usage monitoring applications, then let you decide if this tool will fit in to your organization.

SuperScout is an extremely scalable Internet usage monitoring tool that’s equally effective on small and enterprise networks. Using agents on the Domain Controller, SuperScout can monitor all of your network’s users. When a user logs onto the network and accesses resources, the SuperScout agent connects to the agent running on that user’s computer and monitors any Internet usage. In addition, depending on your network’s topology, you can configure SuperScout in various ways — for example, via arrays.

Several tools ship with SuperScout. These range from a real-time monitor and rules administrator (for configuring Web sites to be monitored) to database-creation tools (for configuring a SQL database to store the data SuperScout gathers). With this database, SuperScout allows you to create reports quickly. Report types include the Top 10 e-mail users, Internet use by department, daily user access to the Internet, and usage by day.

Another nifty tool, the SuperScout Monitor, allows you to see what sites are being accessed by a specific user, computer or group. Here, you can monitor the Web sites visited, pages within a site visited, and the amount of time a user has spent browsing a particular site.

SurfControl SuperScout (Reports)
SuperScout allows you to view data in numerous ways. (Click image to view larger version.)

The database SuperScout uses to categorize Web sites contains some 1.4 million site addresses, which are regularly updated. This may seem like a large number, but as the Internet continues to grow at an exponential rate, the SuperScout database really covers just a fraction of the sites out there. This is a limitation of the application. You’re also bound by someone else’s vision of how sites should be rated, which may differ from your view. You can filter by keywords, but you might run into problems here as well. A targeted keyword, “sexual,” let’s say, may prohibit users from visiting an otherwise “permitted” Web site, for example, one dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace.

SurfControl SuperScout (Monitor)
With SuperScout's Monitor application, you can watch user, group and computer access to the Internet. (Click image to view larger version.)

Even with the above limitations, as I took SuperScout for Business on a test drive, I found it did, indeed, fulfill its promise: It quickly and efficiently monitors Internet usage on your network. It’s no surprise, then, that SurfControl is a leader when it comes to providing Web usage monitoring tools.

About the Author

Barry Shilmover, MCSE+I, MCT, owns Shilmover Consulting Services, a Microsoft Solution Provider specializing in Windows NT/2000 and Exchange 5.5/2000 solutions. He has co-authored books that include Windows 2000 System Administrator’s Black Book and Exchange 5.5 Exam Cram, both from Coriolis Press.

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