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Activis can curb employees' shopping with work e-mail

December 16, 2001

The corporate world is not looking forward to one aspect of the Christmas season: Many workers are using their corporate Internet connections and e-mail accounts to shop, and this is causing a serious bandwidth drain.

Employees log on to shopping sites from work and use their corporate accounts as a point of contact.

Consequently, when the shopping sites send a blast of marketing materials, it weighs down the server with thousands of extra megabytes.

Activis, a Hartford, Conn., e-mail-security company, recently released a study that says many companies will lose large amounts of money this holiday season.

For instance, a company with 1,000 people can lose $36,000 in time and wasted bandwidth as people send, receive and forward offers from high-volume e-retailers.

"This is a huge waste of a company's dollars," Activis spokesman Jack Wilkins said. "People are paid to work, not to surf."

Activis, predictably, has a product to sell that will help a company tighten its belt.

If you subscribe to its eScan service, you can filter mail that has any particular keywords — "big sale!" or even "Amazon" — and let the sender and receiver know that it was inappropriate.

For a look at their services and the entire report, go to www.

There is a lot we can learn from this survey, without spending any money.

Your mission: Immediately cease and desist in any online commerce from your office machine. Contact all merchants and switch addresses to one that originates at home. After this, don't even log on to Amazon or CDNow from work.

You will save your company money in two ways: It will no longer feel a bandwidth and labor drain, and it won't have to pay for Activis' services.

Activis may be needed in a larger company where there already is an ingrained work style that blends work and play.

Once, that didn't matter, and one of the unwritten job perks was Internet access.

Now, as companies are making less money, they can no longer afford to support such behavior.

While it was always a good idea to hold separate e-mail accounts for work and home, it was mostly a privacy issue. Today, the failure to do so could have a direct negative effect on your company.

This is only another refrain of that common modern ditty, "the party's over."

To be harsh, if you keep shopping at work, it could be one of those little things that can help drive your company out of business.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at

by Charles Bermant. Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company


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