In today’s technologically sophisticated (and sometimes litigious) workplace, outlining computer use policies is critical to properly defining the rules of engagement. Without a clearly defined Computer User Policy, you're literally letting the animals run the zoo.
Through the creation of a comprehensive, company-specific Computer Use Policy, misuse can be more easily identified and addressed before a seemingly insignificant issue becomes a serious legal problem. On top of this, when your organization follows effective computer use policies an added byproduct is increased productivity!
If you don't already have one, here are 6 reasons (and benefits) for implementing an effective Computer Use Policy:
1. Legal protection for the company
Everything from the download or email distribution of pornographic content to weakening the integrity of a network by manipulating configurations and settings needs to be addressed by an effective computer use policy. This could help protect the company from harassment suits, network vulnerability leading to loss of confidential information, and similar issues that may arise. An effective computer use policy places responsibility for data security into the hands of the user.
While there is enough to worry about in terms of viruses, malware, ransomware, and hacking and especially in environments where users connect to your network using remote access and a personal computer, downloading files off the internet, and so on, defining a policy sets the precedent for what your organization is legally responsible for. A good policy will help users avoid making choices that place the company in a legally damaging situation.
2. Defining appropriate and inappropriate use will help uphold a professional environment
It's necessary to define appropriate use as use of company machines for business-enhancing purposes, not personal use that could potentially create system vulnerabilities or a host of other problems. By highlighting approved purposes, even if this means allowing occasional personal use that does not interfere with work activities, an organization shows its commitment to a professional, serious work environment.
3. Users will understand privacy and company ownership rights
Organizations may choose to monitor and track user computer activities to proactively combat potential issues. It is critical to clearly explicate and outline how far the computer use policy extends and which content is technically “owned” by the company versus the user. Users are less likely to access, create, or distribute inappropriate materials when all materials on the network are considered the property of the respective organization.
4. Responsibility for keeping content of machines secure becomes that of the user
Users should understand that it is their responsibility to take reasonable precautions to protect sensitive data from being breeched, keep licensed software from being copied or shared, and in general, keep from reconfiguring workstations and disrupting network effectiveness and consistency. A Computer Use Policy provides specific details on which activities could compromise network security, and lets the user know that if reasonable precautions to safeguard passwords and sensitive trade information are not taken, the user can be held liable.
5. Defining acceptable internet and email use will help prevent security breaches, data loss, and will improve productivity
Despite the protection that a firewall or server-based application provides, no system is perfect. A well-defined internet and email use policy will help educate users in their responsibilities if accessing possibly harmful content in the first place.
While most common forms of misuse are reading the news, making purchases, and downloading music, some unacceptable online activities can have results as drastic as theft of information and loss of business, not to mention bad PR for the company. Of course companies lose thousands of dollars a year, per employee, on lost productivity due to web surfing – this can be minimized with a detailed use policy.
6. A computer use policy creates a potentially binding, enforceable agreement between the user and organization
By creating a potentially binding agreement between your staff and your organization, the significance and legitimacy of the policy is validated. It must be made clear that the policy will be enforced and the outcome for not following the outlined guidelines may result in consequences as severe as termination. To make the contract legitimate, management has to make an effort to enforce the policy, or else it simply becomes a piece of paper.
So there you have it. 6 great reasons why should have a Computer Use Policy.
If you have any questions or are interested in getting some feedback on your, specific, policy, please send me an email or give me a call.
What do you think? Has this info been helpful? Let us know in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.