Does your business have an acceptable use policy regarding office use of the Internet? More importantly, is your acceptable use policy (AUP) enforced, or is it a document that’s only seen upon the point-of-hire? Learn exactly why your company needs an AUP, even if you are just a small company with a handful of employees.
Download a sample “acceptable use policy” – Click Here.
What’s In an Acceptable Use Policy?
Acceptable use policies outline when and how employees can use the business’ Internet access. Typically, these policies cover:
- Purpose – The reason for the policy, from a business perspective.
- General expectations – Here, place any general rules for Internet usage.
- Acceptable use – This explains how employees are allowed to use the Internet.
- Unacceptable use – This specifically calls out unacceptable uses of company Internet. It may focus on banning specific sites (i.e. social media) or on prohibiting behaviors.
- Confidentiality and disclosure – Any business policies around confidentiality and disclosure of data go here.
- Network use – Here place policies regarding user accounts, general accounts, and network boundaries.
- Enforcement – The “teeth” of the AUP, this section lists when and how the enterprise will monitor network usage and punish violators.
Now that you have a refresher on what goes into an acceptable use policy, review why it is critical that you have one – even if you are a small business.
Why Small Business Need an AUP
The acceptable use policy protects your business from any legal actions, while clearly communicating to employees your expectations regarding their behavior.
It is far better to lay out acceptable usage and get employees on board early than to have to backpedal if something goes wrong. In a worst-case scenario, a staff member could introduce malware into the office environment visiting a site that would have been blacklisted – if you had an AUP in place.
An AUP may limit your liability around illegal file sharing. If your staff download ebooks, music, or video files from an illegal site, your business may be legally liable for this behavior. Can you afford to fight a file-sharing lawsuit?
Even if all downloaded media files are legal, your business may be paying to back up items that are personal in use. Additionally, if users are downloading large files, this hogs bandwidth. It may prevent staff from completing needed tasks quickly, by reducing the bandwidth available for legitimate uses. From a cost perspective, it’s worth the time to lay out policies regarding storage of file downloads.
It may seem obvious to block staff access to online gaming sites or pornography sites. Yet legitimate sites – YouTube, for one – can pose a big problem by hogging bandwidth and distracting staff from their duties.
Consider carefully which websites to specifically block. Aim to strike a balance between allowing staff access to information needed to do their job and enjoy a happy work culture and maintaining office productivity.
The best policies are not so specific that employees can easily loop around prohibitions, yet not so vague as to block or allow almost anything. Work with IT to create an AUP that is not only effective at reducing unwanted behavior and limiting your risk but can be enforced. To increase buy-in, consider sharing draft policies with staff and asking their opinion.
Once the AUP is final, distribute copies at an information session, answer any questions, and get staff signatures.
Cohn Consulting Corporation is the trusted choice for small businesses who wish to get ahead of the curve regarding IT tips and tricks. To learn more, please contact us at (770) 225-0584 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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