Why Adopt an Acceptable Use Policy?

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December 2, 2021

An acceptable use policy, also known as an “acceptable usage policy” or a “fair use policy,” is a written document that outlines a code of conduct for employees who use work-issued devices. When businesses adopt an acceptable use policy, they are adding another layer of security for their network, and it’s more important now that more employees are working remotely.

An acceptable usage policy is drafted by business owners, administrative officers, or IT administrators to clearly define the use of company-issued devices. The document covers phone usage guidelines, online activities, private email use and more. 

Why Should My Smaller Business Adopt an Acceptable Use Policy?

You may think that your business is too small to need to adopt an acceptable use policy.  Remember, though, that small to medium-sized businesses make up nearly half of all cybercriminal activity.  Also consider that most data breaches are because of some form of employee negligence. It’s estimated that 92% of malware incidents are accidentally caused via email. 

Adopting an acceptable use policy reduces the possibility of an employee unintentionally installing malware while performing “unsanctioned” online activities. 

Adopting an acceptable use policy not only reduces your vulnerabilities, but it also boosts employee efficiency and productivity. 

Is an Acceptable Use Policy Really That Important?

Adopting an acceptable use policy could mean the difference between employee compliance and negligent online behavior.

Giving your employees a top-of-the-line mobile device, shiny new workstation, or a sleek new laptop is a part of life for small to medium sized business owners. Most employees will never knowingly engage in risky online behaviors, but there is always the chance that their online presence will open doors for a hacker to enter your network. Adopting an acceptable use policy ensures that your employees use their company-issued devices for work rather than shopping the best online deals, watching cat videos on You Tube, or visiting sites that place your network at risk. 

You may be monitoring your employee’s work from time to time, and an acceptable use policy puts that in writing.  In other words, your teams become aware that, while using company-issued devices, their activities are not necessarily private. Of course, you should use your powers to spy on your employees very judiciously. Your employees should understand the seriousness of your company’s security, and its monitoring. In today’s climate of exploding cybercrime, you must take an active role to prevent risky online behaviors that could impact your business. Don’t hesitate to protect your network, devices, and your Wi-Fi connections from unintentional employee negligence. 

Eight percent of businesses keep track of employees’ internet usage, from checking personal emails to web browsing.  These companies drastically reduce the risk of cyberattacks and they find that monitoring internet usage increases productivity as well.  

Acceptable Use Policies Can Lower Your Liabilities 

Risky online computer behavior comes in many shapes and sizes. Just a few examples include: 

  • Industry violations such as HIPAA or SOX  
  • Downloading illegal files 
  • Uploading offensive content to sites  
  • Cyberbullying 
  • Illegal activities 
  • Clicking risky links 

Adopting an acceptable use policy provides you with a kind of limited safety net. It may not completely remove liability from your organization, but the courts will be far more understanding if you have an employee’s signed acceptable usage policy in the case of industry violations, data breaches, or criminal activity.  A signed acceptable use document proves that your company took basic steps to address potential online offenses before they occurred.

Integris Can Help Your Organization Adopt an Acceptable Use Policy

Integris recommends that businesses adopt an acceptable use policy. But if you’d like to get your arms around the subject first, we’ve got all the information you need. Check out our recent blogs on how to draft an acceptable use policy, how to enforce an acceptable use policy, writing policy for remote work security, and all the issues surrounding employees using work devices for personal reasons.

Are you ready to adopt an acceptable use policy? The experts at Integris can help you draft one. Contact Integris for a free, no obligation consultation and let us help you write and implement a comprehensive acceptable usage policy for your company today. 

Susan Gosselin is a Senior Content Writer for Integris. A career communicator and business journalist, she's written extensively on IT topics and trends for IT service providers like Iconic IT and ProCoders Ukraine, as well as business publications such as Technologyadvice.com, Datamation.com, The Lane Report and many others. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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