5 Things to consider when writing your company’s internet usage policy

It’s hard to imagine trying to run a business effectively without reliable internet connectivity, but it can also expose your business to cyberattacks. These risks must be addressed to ensure the safety of your critical information assets, such as intellectual property, customer data, and financial information. Each day, these risks become more sophisticated and present more and more issues for you deal with to keep your information safe. These security risks are the reason every organization needs a documented policy to govern use and control of its digital resources.

Here are five things to consider when defining and documenting your internet usage policy:

Resource usage

One of the main goals of an internet usage policy is to ensure that your available bandwidth is used primarily for business purposes. Access to the internet will typically only be approved and provided if there’s a legitimate business need, and the services provided will be based on the employee’s current responsibilities. Access requirements should be periodically reviewed by administrators to ensure any needs are met.

While it’s essential to ensure that business needs come first, it’s usually better for the sake of employee morale to leave some flexibility. So be careful, if you strictly prevent all use of the office internet for non-business reasons, it could backfire.

Restricted websites

While specialized software can prevent employees from accessing blacklisted websites, it’s important for the sake of transparency to make clear what constitutes acceptable use of company internet.

An obvious starting point is to block any websites that contain inappropriate content, but many business leaders take matters a step further by blocking access to websites that hinder productivity, social media being the biggest culprit.

To enforce the rules and keep an eye out for violators, you can use a browser extension for blacklisting websites, but you should be upfront about this with your staff.

Information security

Information security is central to any acceptable use policy. In fact, it’s the main reason for its existence. To help reduce risk, policies might prevent the use of download websites, especially torrent sites, which invariably host pirated software and provide little business value.

Other considerations for your usage policy could be to prevent employees from using personal email or other online accounts that aren’t owned by the business; prohibit all downloads on the grounds of security; and don’t forget, it’s also important to include a strong password policy for protecting business accounts operated by employees.

Incident response

Incident response should have a dedicated section of its own. Some businesses even have a separate policy outlining an organized approach to how employees and the company at large will respond to, manage, and remediate after an unforeseen incident like a data breach.
While it might be the one policy business leaders hope they’ll never have to use, it’s always important to prepare for the worst.

The policy should make clear everyone’s obligations during a disaster to keep disruption and damage to business operations to a minimum. Some plans are specific to data breaches, while others might also cover other disaster categories.

User monitoring

Employee monitoring is a controversial topic, and lack of transparency isn’t just unethical, it’s also illegal. There can be legitimate cases for monitoring employee activities on accounts and devices owned by the business and your internet use policy is the perfect document for outlining your procedures so that employees know what to expect in those instances.

Naturally, employers should take every reasonable effort to avoid monitoring personal data, particularly when it comes to bring your own device (BYOD) policies. If you use employee monitoring software, use your policy to explain how it works, why you use it, and make clear the consequences for breaking the rules.

When establishing any Internet usage policy, it’s important to focus on the real goal, which is to reduce the security risk of your organization and its data. Protecting your critical information assets, like your intellectual property, your customer data, and your financial information should be the sole focus of any such policy.

These tips merely scratch the surface of setting a strong internet usage policy. If you need more advice on the matter, consult with Arnet Technologies. As Ohio’s premier managed IT services provider, we offer expert guidance and managed services for small- to mid-size companies. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.

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