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Why every business needs IT policies

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Kristine Daw is the Managing Director of Dawtek, a Melbourne-based company specialising in tenders and proposals, tender training, copywriting, editing and creating business templates. Kristine and her small team have a range of clients including small businesses, multi-national corporations, all levels of government and not-for-profits.

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What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?

For most workers, their answer to that question will look something like this: I turn on my computer.

More and more, technology is becoming a vital part of our business and work life. If your employees are using computers, email, the internet, software and so on, it’s incredibly important to document and share your company’s Information Technology (IT) policies with every employee. Failing to do so, sees any company putting itself at an immediate disadvantage and risk.

After all, without IT policies in place, how can you expect your employees to know and understand what’s required of them in the workplace? More critically, you can’t enforce rules and regulations unless you’ve communicated them clearly and your employees have agreed to them in writing beforehand.

Personal internet and email usage, security requirements, data retention… all of these areas and more should be covered in the IT policies you implement. Regardless of how small or large your company is, every business owner needs to be aware of how much time can potentially be lost in the workplace due to your staff’s misuse of the internet for personal needs.

While a certain level of trust is certainly required for any successful workplace relationship, you’d be surprised at how a quick glance at Facebook here or a personal email reply there, can chew up time and take people’s focus off the task at hand, leading to mistakes.

Depending on the kind of business you run, you may find that a general IT Policy is adequate for your needs. However, we’ve encountered many clients whose requirements dictate the need for a number of more specific IT policies to be implemented and enforced. Whatever policies your company chooses to put in place, the following six common areas definitely need to be addressed:

#1. What is considered acceptable use of technology and what isn’t

This should cover everything from acceptable use of computers, as well as the internet, email, phones and so on. These guidelines can also incorporate the company’s requirements in terms of the type of software or hardware used, systems purchased and when updates are required or even technology that is prohibited.

#2. Security

This is where we look at guidelines for passwords, who has access to what, virus protection procedures, data use and confidentiality requirements.

#3. Disaster recovery

What happens in the event of a disaster to all of your data? Over the years, we’ve seen a few businesses who haven’t documented their data recovery and back-up methods appropriately, which has cost them dearly in the long-term. Having to endure a disaster isn’t an experience any business owner wants to contemplate but as we know, life can throw curveballs our way at times. It’s always best to be prepared.

#4. Network documentation

How your network is configured, adding new employees to it, appropriate permission levels and so on. Again, they all need to be clearly outlined as part of your IT policies.

#5. Responsibilities

These guidelines should clearly indicate who is responsible for all IT services provided: maintenance, technical support for employees and long-term technology investigation and planning. This avoids employees looking at one another in a puzzled and unknowing fashion should major IT problems arise.

Of course, while outlining your policies is important, it’s equally as vital to ensure you’ve communicated the consequences for failing to comply with the guidelines outlined in the above areas.

As you’ve probably gathered, writing effective IT Policy documents is no easy feat. It can be time consuming to cover all of the necessary aspects and you may not even have the expertise to do so properly. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be so hard or time-consuming. Our team knows that as a business owner, time is your number one resource.