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Company to Prevent Access to Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc.
Old 01-29-2013, 08:49 AM   #1
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Company to Prevent Access to Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc.

Hi.

I work for a large company that continues to become a worse place to work at by the day.

I work hard at my job, and occasionally I need to take care of some personal matters that involve use of the internet and personal email. I also need access to the internet to do my job effectively.

Recently Google Chrome was blocked from access on the company network, Chrome is my browser of choice. And it is what I use at home. Now I am stuck with Internet Explorer. The blocking of Google Chrome was due to an alleged "security risk".

So now I am adjusting to using Internet Explorer, which is not as good as Chrome, in my opinion. And I need to switch between the two between work and home.

Today, we received an email stating that sometime in February, access to Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc. will be completely blocked on work computers/laptops. This will create all sorts of problems for me and others, I am sure. I use my gmail account to keep up with professional colleagues, relatives, on-line shopping transactions, prepare for early retirement, seek out other job opportunities, etc. I receive email reminders both on personal and business matters through my personal email.

There is no fighting "the man" on this issue. The decision has been made. My question is, what is a suitable workaround, so that I can use my personal email accounts during the day when I need to. They installed some BlueCoat proxy which I think will prevent me from using a proxy to get to my personal email account. I only have a simple cell phone, with 500 voice minutes and 200 text messages a month, no internet access. Is my only option to upgrade to a smart phone so that I can have access to my personal email during the day? That does not help with my goal of LBYM.

I dont think there is an accessible open network near my work location so that I could even use that connection to check my personal email.

This job and company stink, but there is no where else for me to go right now, and I don't have enough saved to pull the trigger.

Please understand that I did not take advantage of having access to my personal email while at work. Any advice you have is appreciated.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:54 AM   #2
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Since you say you need the job and have no other realistic options right now, my advice would be to suck it up and bow to "the man" (at least with respect to using company resources). It doesn't sound like you're in the position to risk being disciplined or fired *for cause* by intentionally circumventing security policy with company assets (making you likely ineliglble for unemployment).

You could also go the smartphone route and use your personal data plan to access your e-mail on the phone, but yeah, that would be another $50 a month (at minimum, most likely) out the window. You have to ask yourself if accessing your personal e-mail at the office is worth that. Only you can answer that question.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:55 AM   #3
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I would say the easiest solution is to go ahead and upgrade to a smart phone, or tablet, that you can carry with you to the office. That would be easier than futzing about with various software and workarounds on the (company-owned) computer at your desk.
Bummer, though.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:55 AM   #4
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Well, you are getting paid to be there working. But on the other hand I wish corporations would realize that people have a life & identity outside work. Get a smartphone. When I walk through the office I see every other person looking down at a smartphone instead of on the PC working.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:57 AM   #5
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I get a kick when our marketing dept sends a memo out to check out something we posted on youtube or elsewhere. However, we can't access this through our company computer.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:58 AM   #6
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Do you w*rk next to a local library with internet access? During my w*rk years, before megacorp allowed internet usage for personal matters, I used to sometimes go out for a long lunch and use the internet at a library within walking distance.

Your company should get a note asking "What part of Cybermonday doesn't it understand?"
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:16 AM   #7
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Well, you are getting paid to be there working. But on the other hand I wish corporations would realize that people have a life & identity outside work. Get a smartphone. When I walk through the office I see every other person looking down at a smartphone instead of on the PC working.
A good employer recognizes that people do need breaks once in a while, even if just a few minutes a couple times a day, if they are to remain "fully charged" and not burned out in terms of doing the things they are paid to do.

And I think you correctly hit on the "cuts both ways" nature of this question. Yes, perhaps some employees abuse this and spend too much company time** on personal matters, but it's also true that many employers are increasingly infringing on "personal time" with longer hours, on-call requirements and expecting workers to be responsive to company phone calls and e-mails 24x365.

** -- The concept of "company time" really doesn't apply well to salaried employees anyway, who are theoretically paid to get a job done rather than by the number of hours they are doing it. When you are being specifically paid by the hour, abuse of "company time" can be a bit more problematic and I think an employer would be more justified in cracking down. But when a salaried employee is doing a good job on the work they are responsible for? Leave well enough alone...
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:48 AM   #8
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Might a VPN connection through one of the VPN server services get you through the company firewall? I don't have any experience with these, but privacy advocates seem to like them. The only thing I could think of other than a smartphone. Speaking of which, a smartphone on Ting or Republic Wireless might not be too pricey.

Unlimited Smartphone $19mo. Really?
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:51 AM   #9
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I'm facing a similar issue soon. I was wondering (for myself) whether it would (still) be possible to do an outbound RDP connection. If so, then if you have a pro version of Microsoft Windows on your computer at home, you could set it up to allow you to use it for what you'd like to do, with only the screen-image being brought to your computer at work. (Be aware though: There are several things you need to do to make this secure, to obstruct folks from hacking their own way into your home computer.)
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:56 AM   #10
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** -- The concept of "company time" really doesn't apply well to salaried employees anyway, who are theoretically paid to get a job done rather than by the number of hours they are doing it. When you are being specifically paid by the hour, abuse of "company time" can be a bit more problematic and I think an employer would be more justified in cracking down. But when a salaried employee is doing a good job on the work they are responsible for? Leave well enough alone...
True. I'm an exempt salary employee and I prefer that they just let me do my job and not worry about what browser I have on my PC. I got an email last year saying Firefox was not approved and I need to remove it. I never did and never heard another thing.
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:57 AM   #11
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An option is to get a cheap tablet and go to someplace with wi-fi when you need... This is cheaper than buying a data plan...

Lots of places have wi-fi now....
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:01 AM   #12
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An option is to get a cheap tablet and go to someplace with wi-fi when you need... This is cheaper than buying a data plan...

Lots of places have wi-fi now....
That would be a good option if you could get out of the office for a few minutes a couple times a day and you had something like a Starbucks or a McDonald's very close by, or some other place with free wifi.
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"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)

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Old 01-29-2013, 10:09 AM   #13
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This is just another disadvantage to working.

You have to assume that EVERYTHING you do on a company computer or phone is being continually monitored. If some questionable sites are not blocked, you can assume that the company is merely giving you enough rope to hang yourself.

If you have a company vehicle, you have to assume that every move is being reported to the company via the onboard GPS.

When I was working I installed a company VPN on my personal PC so that I could access the company network while at home. I don't think I would use a personal VPN on my company PC. Unauthorized software on a company PC was a firing offense.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:09 AM   #14
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I have to say I don't have a problem with this policy. Might be problems with slowing down the network, cutting phone costs, etc., and maybe the systems are overused by the folks who would never make a business call from their home phone or use their home computer for work after they got home. Agree with the smart phone idea and maybe use it only during lunch or official breaks.

Of course I remember my first couple of jobs, where incoming calls at work went through a switchboard and personal calls were tracked so overuse could be grounds for termination or at the very least became water cooler gossip. And two martini lunches, etc. Fun times.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:13 AM   #15
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I can see your perspective on this Bestwifeever. I know that a lot of people in our office watch videos. Yup. Videos. Sports recaps, mostly, but also long news reports from China. (Our company hires Chinese H-1Bs, so I guess they're setting themselves up for some of this.) And our network really isn't made for such large volumes of video.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:51 AM   #16
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That would be a good option if you could get out of the office for a few minutes a couple times a day and you had something like a Starbucks or a McDonald's very close by, or some other place with free wifi.

Or even just lunch... at least you had access during the day... if things go the way stated, you get no access during the work day...

but yes, if you could get away a few more time it would make it better...
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:37 AM   #17
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I wouldn't try to do things to get around it on the computer at work as that could be cause for termination. That said - if it was me I would either get a smartphone or an iPad or iPad mini. I only work part-time now (ESR) but our firm computers block a lot of things (not gmail thank goodness - we are actually encouraged to use gmail for personal stuff). I bring my 4G iPad to the office and when I need to go to one of those blocked sites I use my iPad. For phone I have the Verizon plan with shared data so adding on the iPad was an extra $10 a month.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:38 AM   #18
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This is all standard procedure for large companies. The PCs are controlled with domain/group policies. This is for standardization and support. The PCs are company property and installing non standard supported software/configuration in many cases is a terminal offense. Also viewing restricted sites. I would never send personal email through the company network. Sarbanes-oxley requires they keep records of all email traffic on their network so it's not private. RDP is probably blocked via group policy, but you might try something like logmein to remote to your home PC. Many places have gone away from the site blocking/filtering because of the overhead and expense to manage it. They instead have company policies that state what is allowed and if you violate the policy you're gone.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:47 AM   #19
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May no longer be true, but our IT folks always said it was a question of bandwidth, with business needs competing with personal surfing. They claimed they paid for bandwidth by use (though I am not savvy enough to know if it was/is true).

So they started providing me with a weekly report of how much bandwidth each user was eating up, and the top 10 sites they were each visiting. My former employer was not that advanced, so I am sure almost any company can generate reports with this kind of detail. Turned out about 10% of the workforce was grossly abusing the internet with personal stuff. At the direction of IT (not that I was opposed), I had to confront the abusers and our total bandwidth use dropped by about 2/3rds within a month as a result. The biggest abuses were all sorts of sports sites, news & financial sites and eBay that I recall. Also had a manager who downloaded iTunes at work (and not at home?) who was updating his personal IOS devices at work, which consumed a lot of bandwidth when he did it. Youtube was blocked altogether, or I am sure that would have been an issue. FWIW, there is no way we would have caught the abusers without tracking them, interestingly it did not correspond to work performance (it was a mix of good performers, and not so good. Managers, and not).

Seems using a smartphone is the obvious answer to the OP, as others have said. I think the company has a right to control what their PCs and network are used for, and manually policing same is a waste of time.

We started to see employees abusing cell phones when they came out and then even more with smartphones. And DW tells me there are people at her office who are playing with their smartphones far too often, and turning in LCD work. DW sees it, but the employees are of course smart enough to not do it when their managers are around.

Not a black-n-white issue from what I recall. As always a few people spoil it for others, and management resorts to punishing everyone in lieu of wasting their time monitoring employees. Employees rarely had any sympathy for managements POV...
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:50 AM   #20
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This is all standard procedure for large companies.
Yes, and government agencies as well. Not only could we not ever access outside e-mail, we were told that if we tried our IT people would know and there would be consequences. Don't know if that latter part was true, because I never dared try.

In those days, people would get around that by bringing their own personal blackberries to work. That was technically not allowed, but they did anyway. Now that so many have iPhones, I'd think this would not be much of an issue. Get an iPhone. It may be expensive but it sounds like this is one of the costs of working there.

Or you could do what I did - - tell your contacts that you cannot respond to e-mails when you are at work unless they are directed to your work e-mail address, but that you will respond later to other e-mails when you get home.
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