Core Components of IT Policy
With the benefits in mind, let’s cover some core areas you should address in your organization’s IT policy. We can only offer general guidelines and considerations as the particulars will depend entirely on your company’s unique needs.
- Acceptable use: Commonly abbreviated as AUP, acceptable use encompasses how employees should use technology, computers, cell phones, internet, networks, servers, mail systems, etc. What are the appropriate and inappropriate uses of company equipment? How do your employees need to access their files, emails, and applications to ensure data integrity and security?
- User access controls: UAC defines what users get access to which parts of your data and network, and how that access is allowed/limited. Who can access what? What controls will be in place? Who will keep access updated during staff changes?
- Third-party vendor access: Whether you use an IT managed services provider, want to hire business consultants to optimize your workflows, or just need a wall repaired, at some point people outside of your organization will need access to your IT infrastructure – the who and how of this should be defined in your policies. What information can third parties access? How will they access it? What confidentiality agreement will be in place? What best practices must they uphold?
- Internet and email usage: As part of your AUP, you should define how your company does and should use the internet and email. How will employee devices and systems be connected to each other and the internet? What internet-connected services and applications will be used? How will online services be protected in the business context? What devices should be allowed to connect?
- Company-owned devices: Your IT policies should outline what equipment your company uses, when and to whom that equipment is given, and who’s responsible for maintaining and tracking that equipment. Does every new employee get their own laptop? How often are these devices audited? Do employees get to keep company equipment when they leave?
- Bring Your Own Device/Technology: Whether you allow your employees to use their own devices for or at work or not, you should clarify the ifs, whens, and hows in your IT policy. When can personal devices be connected to company systems and networks? Under what circumstances? Using what security protocols?
- Data backup and recovery: Backup and recovery policies outline the processes and procedures for ensuring copies of key data are made and securely stored, as well as how they’ll be recovered if needed. How will data on company systems and technology be backed up? On what schedule? What will/will not be possible to recover? What protocols will be followed to avoid security issues during backup?
- Disaster recovery: Disaster recovery is the set of processes and guidelines used to restore business operations in a variety of scenarios. What happens during an interruption in normal business operations? How will each department and team keep running? Is remote work involved? What plans will there be for backup systems, staff, vendors and equipment? What tasks will be prioritized in the case of an emergency?
- Incident response: These policies outline your plans regarding unauthorized access to your company’s network. What are the protocols to isolate intruders, identify any stolen or corrupted data, and restore access that’s been lost, and ensure the future security of your systems?
- Remote work: If you allow your employees to work remotely, you should clarify when and how that’s allowed. How will employees access networks, systems and data remotely? What security guidelines are required? What remote work environment standards will be set? Will employees be required to use a VPN when accessing your network from home?
- Information security: Your IT policy is a key component of maintaining cybersecurity. Within it, you should define your processes and procedures for maintaining IT security, as well as your specific risks and vulnerabilities. How will your company protect the private data of employees and customers? What systems will store it and what user access will protect it? What protocols should IT staff take when handling private data?
- Password management: As part of your IT security policies, we highly recommend having a clear password management system and process as password-based attacks are one of the most common causes of cybersecurity breaches. What password requirements will be mandatory? How can you motivate employees to renew passwords and protect them? What password policy will best safeguard company systems?
- Security awareness: Best practices change regularly, and most employees aren’t aware of what they should and shouldn’t do to keep your IT infrastructure secure – that’s where defining awareness processes comes in. How will staff and users be trained in security? How will the IT policy and procedures be implemented daily? What sort of adherence measures will be put in place?
- Change management: At some point, your devices and software will need to be upgraded. When, why, and how should be defined in your IT policies. What happens when IT infrastructure, systems, protocols or policies are updated? How will a change plan be defined and implemented? How will staff be notified?
- IT system maintenance: Like all tools, IT systems need regular maintenance. To minimize interruptions and the costs of broken hardware and software, regular maintenance schedules and processes should be included in your policies. When and how will IT maintenance occur? How will staff be notified? What types of service interruptions can be avoided?
- Help Desk: When your employees need help learning or fixing your IT systems, it’s important to have clear expectations and processes for who they should talk to, how, and when they can expect responses. How will the Help Desk handle tech-related inquiries? How will they protect private data during resolutions? What issues should be escalated to IT staff? What SLA (service level agreement) will support Help Desk resolution?
These key considerations will guide you as you create your IT policy framework. If you’re looking for an IT policy template to get started, TechRepublic has a good resource with downloadable IT policy examples.
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