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Instant Mess(aging) -- The Ongoing Battle Over Network Usage

A friend of mine works for a large financial services firm. Recently, he told me that the company blocked employees' access to YouTube, MySpace and a few other "time-wasting" sites. My first reaction?

Those meanies.My second reaction?

Have you checked Monster lately?

Then I spoke to Dolly Oberoi, CEO of C2 Technologies.

"We have 400 people online," she said. "People were downloading viruses, our system was slowing down, we had security issues."

Oberoi said that C2 has a deliberately liberal policy in terms of internet and software use because she wants her employees to feel that she trusts them. "We're a small company. We have retention issues," she said. "If we make them miserable, why should they stay with us?"

But, noted Oberoi, IM continues to be used for personal use, software with viruses continue to be downloaded, and the network is continually clogged. Her IT manager was so frustrated, he shut down IM one day. "IM is the worst," she said. "It's an excellent communication tool but do you allow it for personal use? It's so distracting. And how do you control it?"

Oberoi's short answer, so far, is she can't. A mini employee revolution forced her IT manager to bring IM back up within a day.

"We could have a network policing tool which takes money but it's more about philosophy. We want to do it in a kinder, gentler way," she said.

"It's a very tight balance," she added.

Indeed it is.

Anyone out there have any suggestions on how to walk the network usage policy tightrope without falling off  either into the land of the super mean where employees are super resentful or into the land of the clogged, bloated networks where everything moves oh so slowly?

Write me here.