How To Write An IT Policy For Your Business?
Writing and IT Policy can be as fun as paying your taxes, however, just like your taxes, it has to be done. Having a strong IT policy for your business not only prevents employed related problems but also cyber-attacks. Your Information Technology (IT) Policy handbook doesn’t have to be complicated, but it needs to exist.
You should try to make your business IT policy easy to read and entertaining so your employees adopt it and read it. Don’t worry about making your IT business policy over-complicated. Remember that technology changes, and you can always update your business IT policy as needed.
How do you write a business policy?
Your IT business policy should start as a template, this way is easy to make changes and adjustments as necessary. In fact, we recommend you update your policy at least yearly to keep up with your business culture, technology adoption, and, most importantly, compliance requirements.
Start by researching your business compliance requirements.
Every business is different, and your IT policy will vary depending on your business compliance requirements. For example, if you are a medical office, you need to research HIPAA guidelines and include those guidelines and conditions in your IT policy.
Steps for creating your IT Policy
Here are the steps for drafting an IT policy for your small business:
1) Specify The Intent of the Policy
You should be transparent with your employees and state the intent of your business IT policy. The main reason for an IT policy is to protect the company and its Information Technology systems. The policy should include information and answer the following questions:
- What is the point of the IT policy?
- Why is it needed?
- How is it going to be applied?
A business IT policy explains the rules, guidelines, and regulations for proper usage, security procedures, and maintenance of the business IT systems.
More importantly, an IT policy establishes the controls of what is considered acceptable and ethical usages of the company’s IT infrastructure, including all computers, the Internet, Email, and all other company IT assets.
2) Define The Scope Of The IT Policy
The scope of the document tells you exactly what is included and what isn’t. Don’t leave any ambiguity in your policies. Correctly defining the scope allows the IT managers to calculate the resources required for implementation and establish controls and monitoring systems.
In addition, the scope gives a tangible objective for the IT managers as well as the organization.
The policy scope states precisely what’s included in the policy. The policy scope should accurately describe how this policy should be implemented, who it applies to, and what it applies to. Make sure to include as much as possible.
It is better to overindulge in detail than leave anything important out.
Think of the following questions:
- Who has to comply with this IT policy? The boss? Contractors?
- Which devices are covered? Personal iPad?
- Which applications and tools are covered?
Components Of The IT Policy
1) Purchase & Installation Policy
The purpose of the organization’s purchase and installation guidelines is to ensure that all hardware and software used are appropriate, provide value for money, and integrate with other technologies used within the organization.
Another essential objective of the purchase policy is to ensure that there is minimum hardware and software diversity within the organization. Uniformity in the devices and software provides ease of maintenance and IT support.
Define a definitive process to purchase and install software and hardware in your company. The purpose of this policy is to make sure that all hardware and software sources are prosperity vetted by an assigned person in your company.
This policy avoids multiple users introducing unwanted software or hardware into your business, potentially compromising your business security.
Consider the following questions:
- Is there an approval process for software or hardware purchases?
- Who is responsible for purchasing software and hardware – procurement team, office manager, or IT team? Do they have proper training and knowledge to make appropriate decisions?
- Where will they buy from?
- Are there any standardized company configurations or specifications for software and hardware for devices?
- Who can install software or hardware in the company?
- Is a whitelist of approved software applications and hardware maintained by the company?
Consider writing specific policies for each of the following topics:
- Hardware specs and installations
- Software applications and web tools
- Installation guidelines and conditions
2) Company IT Systems Usage Policy
The Usage Policy should be carefully written and very specific. This is where you state how business-owned IT equipment, software, and other technology can be acceptably used.
It is crucial for all your employees to understand what the business considers acceptable, responsible, and safe in the use of company technology resources.
3) Device/Computer Usage Policy
Consider the following topics:
- Are personal devices allowed in your business?
- In the case of a company computer’s loss or theft, what procedure must be followed by the employees?
- What’s the process for the return of the computers or devices after employment terminations?
4) Email Usage Policy
A clearly defined email usage policy reduces the security and business risks faced by the organization. It describes the rules for the company’s use provided email and helps satisfy the legal obligations and protects the organization from liabilities.
An email Usage policy protects businesses from risks associated with Internet email traffic. In fact, many successful cyber attacks originate via email attachments.
Your Email Usage Policy should at least include the following topics:
- Define the scope of the Email Usage Policy policy.
- Explain whether the personal use of the company email system is approved or not?
- State and define the data confidentiality and privacy responsibilities of the email users.
- Procedure for email security breaches or company email policy violations.
- Define the ownership of the contents within the organization’s emails. For example, does the organization have the right to intercept, monitor, read, or disclose any emails.
- Define the email security obligations of all company employees, for example-
- Not tampering or modifying any email scanning software,
- Not using the company email address on malicious or spam websites,
- Not forwarding copyrighted material or sensitive business data ( PHI ) using company email.
5) Internet Usage Policy
Your business Internet Usage Policy is very important. This policy should define what your organization considers acceptable Internet usage and web browsing.
The Internet usage policy should include information on what your company considers responsible, legal, and safe Internet browsing.
Your Internet usage policy should include at least the following:
- Define the scope of the policy. Different departments or employees might fall under different Internet usage policies.
- Is personal use of the internet allowed? This is a crucial topic to include in your Internet usage policy. If personal Internet use is allowed, make sure you specified what type of Internet browsing is permitted.
- Make sure to be very explicit about disabling or bypassing the company firewall.
- Specify restrictions on files and programs that can be downloaded into your network.
- Define any prohibited activities such as:
- Playing online or gambling games
- Downloading illegal media
- Accessing pornographic or explicit material
- Define the security responsibilities employees must adhere to while using the internet.
6) Social Media Policy
Social Media has become a powerful tool for many businesses. However, for many companies, social medical can be a huge legal liability and even the source of massive data leaks.
The same way social media can attract new customers to your business, but social media can also destroy the repudiation of your company. We have seen cases where employees post information in social media that destroys businesses in a matter of hours.
Define very well what type of activity you allow in social media and make sure your employees understand which activities are considered a terminable office.
When it comes to social media, businesses have to be very direct and strict. Perhaps you allow company related marketing posts but don’t allow personal social media usage within your company walls.
Definitely include language in your policy to prohibit polarizing topics and guidelines from handling customers using social media. Your social media policy should be accurate and precise. Please keep in mind social media can be a perilous world for businesses.
7) Account Management Policy
Your business needs to define and state who has the authority to create and manage user accounts or usernames. Include information on remote access and privilege level.
Include specific information on departmental privilege levels and specific access details for such departments. For example, a sales department might have access to company prospect lists but might not have access to a list of active clients.
Here’s an example of how you can group users in your network:
- Main Users
- Users With Unique or Special Access
- IT Support Staff
8) IT Security Policy
IT Security is a broad topic, and many companies wrote a separate policy just for the company IT Security guidelines. For most small businesses is enough to include the following topics in your IT Security Policy.
9) Physical Security
Physical security deals with access to company IT systems and other controls. Perhaps you include how to access the server and keep an access log of who enters the server room. Do not limit yourself here, take the word Physical Security seriously, and apply any physical method to protect your company IT systems.
10) Network Security Policy
Network security requires special attention as it is a frequent target for cyber-attacks. Describe the tools, processes, and procedures in place for ensuring the security of the organization’s computer network.
Network Security is also a large topic and an area where you should spend adequate time. Your network is a target for cyber-attacks. Make sure you have proper security layers in place to protect your network.
11) Cybersecurity Policy
Your cybersecurity policy should include the following topics:
- Proper use of software, application, and Internet browsing.
- Use of USBs and external devices.
- Data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity guidelines and processes.
- Cyber Security incident reporting procedure.
- IT Security Training schedule.
- Strict Password policy.
- Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). ( everywhere!)
- Implement a Mobile Device Management (MDM) tool.
12) IT Audits
Your IT company should help you help with your IT Audits. These audits should cover all your computers, servers, firewalls, and every single device connected to your network.
13) Data Security Policy
Your business data security policy covers all the steps your business should take to protect your client’s data.
Your Data Security Policy should include the following topics:
- Define the scope
- Set controls for storage, access, usage, modification, and distribution of all company data.
Policy Enforcement And Sanctions For Violation
Your IT policy is a shield for your company. Employees should learn it, embrace it, and stick by it. Your business IT policy should be enforced and followed, and you should have a process for any violations. Keep in mind that this policy can protect your business and keep you away from a lawsuit.
Congratulations, you now have an IT policy.
When sharing the policy document within your organization, make sure that everyone understands the policy’s intent.
Make sure your business IT policy is saved in PDF format and secured from changes and modifications. Implement a versioning process to track any changes to your policy.
Your IT company can help you draft and build your IT policy and make your IT policy part of every company training or employee review every six months.
If you would like help building your company IT policy, send us a note below. We will be happy to assist you! Contact our office today for more information.