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Broadband internet access offers many benefits to business - the unmetered connection means that you no longer have to have to worry about phone charges, and the connection speed (up to 10 times faster than that through an ordinary modem line) means that communication with suppliers and customers can be made quickly and effectively. However there are a number of potential pitfalls that could lead to problems if not addressed correctly.

The two major problems are disruption to productivity though external and internal means. In the former, internet viruses, worms and the activity of hackers can cause great potential problems to your business, and can lead to the loss or dissemination to third parties of valuable company data. In the latter case, high speed Internet access may lead to a loss of productivity from the workforce who abuse the internet connection to spend more time browsing the Internet or downloading music, computer software or even pornography.

All of these problems do, of course, exist with any internet connection, whether at home or at work. However broadband connections often serve to magnify these risks: there have been a number of cases where it was found that hackers were deliberately targeting broadband connections in an attempt to hijack computers in order to use them to distribute pornography and pirated software. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can be taken to ameliorate these problems.

Firstly, it is wise to invest in a firewall and anti-virus software. A firewall can restrict access to the internet from your company's computers and vice versa: fortunately many broadband routers (as opposed to the cheaper modems) have this functionality built in. Anti-virus software can help stop potentially damaging viruses spreading into your computers via email and the world wide web.

The other side of the equation is content filtering - blocking access to unwanted web sites, emails etc that could negatively affect your company's productivity. Content filtering devices work by denying access to undesirable internet sites, such as those featuring pornography, gambling or downloads of pirated software. Another form of content filtering is that of emails, which are scanned to remove spam - unsolicited commercial email. It is estimated that spam and pornography, in terms of lost productivity, costs UK Businesses up to £3.2 billion each year. In a recent analysis, it was estimated that up to 40% of all email sent is spam, a figure that is increasing rapidly.*

In summary, therefore, broadband is to be broadly welcomed by the business community for the benefits it can bring to the company. It is wise, however, to invest in at least a modicum of preventative measures to stop threats from the outside - after all, you wouldn't leave your office or factory unlocked overnight. In the same way, you shouldn't leave an internet connection on 24 hours a day without some form of security on it.

† Source: Star Internet
* Source: House of Lords debate