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What is an Internet Acceptable Use Policy?

Not too long ago, business communication consisted of faxes, telephone calls and memos typed on corporate letterhead. There were years of established tradition that governed the acceptable duties and obligations of an employee during this era.

As electronic communication became more prevalent, business communication advanced significantly and the old tried and true methods were replaced with emails, video conferencing and sharing project documents on cloud networks. The lines that once existed between a person’s business life and personal life have become more and more blurred as we moved towards a new “always connected society.”

While the shift towards electronic communication has greatly increased the speed of information sharing, it has also opened the door to potential abuse. Not only can improper employee use of the internet and electronic communication methods play havoc with productivity, it can also lead to increased liability.

An Internet Acceptable Use Policy governs what behaviors are acceptable in the work environment regarding electronic communications and internet access. It is designed to ensure employee productivity, limit Company liability and establish Company ownership of all data on the business network.

Developing an Internet Acceptable Use Policy

Any written policy should include a statement of purpose describing the intent and purpose of the policy. A good Internet Acceptable Use policy should include the following elements:

  • Monitoring Policy
    • It should state that all information on the Company network or computers is the property of the Company and that employee use of the network may be monitored.
  • Ownership
    • It should state that all Company documentation and projects are owned by the Company and should be treated as confidential. This is particularly important if the business handles any copyrighted materials.
  • Security
    • It should state that employees are not permitted to circumvent the network fire-wall or virus protection software for any reason.
  • Email Usage
    • It should state that Company provided email addresses and communication methods are to be used for business purposes only.
  • Acceptable Use
    • It should establish what uses of business internet access are unacceptable. Accessing social media sites or pornographic images are common topics addressed in this section.
  • Consequences
    • Every business should have an established Progressive Discipline policy and the relevant actions taken when the Internet Acceptable Use Policy is violated should be stated as well.

Many businesses also expand the policy to include statements governing the proper and acceptable use for Company provided cell phone and tablet computers. The conclusion of the policy should restate the purpose and provide a source for more information if an employee has any questions or concerns.

Employees could be directed to the Human Resources Department, the Operations Department, or for smaller businesses, to their immediate supervisor or owner.

Benefits of an Internet Acceptable Use Policy

An Internet Acceptable Use Policy allows a business to communicate their expectation to their employees and provides a method for addressing unwanted behaviors.

A properly written Internet Acceptable Use Policy will increase employee productivity by limiting the use of internet resources to business related tasks. It will ensure proper network security and establish Company ownership of electronic data. And finally, it will reduce Company liability by clearly stating what uses of business internet access are acceptable.

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About Michael Clapperton

Michael Clapperton is the CTO of IT Sigma. IT Sigma is a SaaS based Workflow and Business Process Management platform. They can be visited at www.itsigmapro.com.  He is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, ITIL V3 Certified Expert and has 20 years of IT experience. He holds an MBA as well as post graduate work…