How to set up an Internet usage policy

You don't need us to tell you how the Internet has changed our lives. It's changed the way we live, work and play, brings us closer to our markets than ever before. With eCommerce, we can even sell products in our sleep. But it comes at a cost.

It's the ideal way for employees to waste time at work. It's a great way to lose confidential information, it can also be an open door for viruses, trojans and malware. So, with that in mind, is controlling access to the Internet at work really that important? We think it is, and here's why.

International Data Corp did a survey on Internet usage at work. They found at least a quarter of all network traffic has nothing to do with productivity At least 40 percent of web browsing during the day has nothing to do with work. So what can you do about it? You can block Internet access or filter it, both can be very effective when done right but only if they form part of a transparent framework.One way to do that is by creating an Internet usage policy, and then using the right technology to enforce it. Providing a clear understandable policy protects the company, protects the employees and creates goodwill between the two. A clear policy shows you want to work with the workforce, not against them. By setting clear rules, you're telling employees what you expect of them. It won't stop all abuse, but it can help change some bad habits and increase productivity. It can also be used in disciplinary proceedings against the worst offenders.

Referred to as a liability shield an Internet usage policy can protect the company from lawsuits as a result of breaches of that policy. As the company has a clear position on what is appropriate, and what isn't, then liability stands with the employee alone, not with the company. A good usage policy should define what exactly is acceptable to the company. It should assert rights over company systems and data. It should specify limits of use, insist that Internet use does not offend, defame, discriminate or harass and prohibit copying or broadcasting of any company information. It should also list the disciplinary ramifications of breaching the policy. Employees should sign the policy to signify agreement. Displaying key terms on the browser screen might also help.

A policy can also help avoid unnecessary cost. All designed to make the internet help, not hinder productivity. How much do you spend keeping up with bandwidth demands each year? And how much of that demand do you think is actually work related? The Internet usage policy is a tool which can help control all that. Setting expectations about Internet use helps change employee habits, which should result in increased productivity and less demand on an already busy network.

You can't eradicate idle surfing completely, but you can lessen its impact. An Internet usage policy is a key tool you can use to do this. That's why it's important that every connected business should have one. For more information about setting up an Internet usage policy, check out our free white paper on the topic.