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Users trying to access our website sometimes find themselves unable to reach us due to their IT departments blocking IP's on work computers.
It's a business's righht to do this, but I'm trying to learn more and determine if there's a way I can help our users.
After all, we want the users to reach our sites. (sports content sites)
In some cases, such as where my wife works, everything is blocked, then you fight for access to anything related to your work/job. Easy for the SysAdmin/MIS/IT department, but a royal PITA for workers who cannot even access web-based e-mail at lunch.
Anyway, this isn't a debate on this practice...I'm after some help:
What can we do to help our users avoid this blocking?
I recall being told once that users could surf through an anonymous IP proxy which would mask the final destination IP addy, thus negating the block. The limit here is if THOSE anonymous IPs get blocked, you're still hooped.
Any thoughts on this?
You sort of answered the question yourself "a company's right... to block".
Companies may do such "blocking" of internet or email access for multiple reasons, such being that sites could contain bad code that could present risks to their system (whether they have firewalls or A/V or whether such is up to date). Workers accessing their personal email at work could put the business system at risk, again due to emails containing bad code. Similar, if a worker sent and email through their own private domain or private email account, that sent email could also contain the IP of the company. The recipient could consider that email spam and the company's IP could get onto a blocked list.
Yes, many reasons why a company may restrict access to the internet by the workers, and mpst definitely a right of the company and for some it may be a necessity to maintain security.
It is also one way that a company can ensure that a worker is not doing other non-work things during business hours. As for the workers lunch time or other breaks, the worker should simply not be using the company equipment for their own personal usage... the company owns the equipment. (Maybe if the worker paid for "rental time" and a share of a/v software costs.... to compensate the employer....)
If it is a sports site or even a business site that interests people and workers then, in my opinion, the persons should use their own computers at their own home and on their own time.
Rather than trying to circumvent "controls" that employers may have on their systems, time might be better spent trying to improve site functions, features, speed and other items on such a site. Not every person has high speed access at home, many still use 56k dialup, so a site owner should make sure that their site is not slow at 56k and that it does not contain a lot of garbage, such as pop-ups or too many ads (and of course I personally think that shockwave or similar movies are wasteful of time... the plugin I removed... usually any content in such can be displayed via jpg, gif, animated gif, or other means).
Also, if one has a business site and wants to capture more viewers or clients, extended "help hours" or later business or customer service hours (even to accomodate east/west coast time differences) can make a big difference.
Otherwise I don't have any suggestions how you could circumvent controls imposed by a company. I would guess that they have automated software performing most of the restrictions, and if not, then they would have IT staff who would easily notice any non-business activity and would put a stop to it.
My best suggestion would be just to make your site the best that you can and hope that it's content is what users want and that they will come to your site during their own personal time at home.
While your explanations have merit, I do actually understand the reasons why sites are blocked, etc. (VERY luckily for me, since our company is internet-based, there are no restirctions for us - save the most obvious of adult content and hate-type stuff - even then, it's not blocked, but you are held accountable...)
In the end, my recommendation to our company was simply that this is not something we should become involved in - for some of the reasons you've stated, as well as others.
If users want to research this type of stuff on their own and implement that knowledge, well, that is their choice - best, however, that we not sanction it by providing the education.
On a purely educational note, it was interesting to learn the ways around this type of stuff - as limited as they are.
I think these types of questions are on the minds of more webmasters all the time - and th ebest advice is exactly where we eneded up:
if it seems like it might be outside the lines, skip it.