What Is an Acceptable Use Policy? (+ How to Write One)
The internet is a wonderful, complicated place for enterprises and individuals. On one hand, digital and cloud solutions empower companies of any industry to deliver a great customer experience, securely manage transactions, and provide a multitude of other functions. On the other hand, the internet hosts countless sketchy sites that can bring about risks and dangers to your business.
So, how do you navigate the open waters of the internet with your company and your employees? With an acceptable use policy! This document can help clarify the relationship and purpose of the internet for everyone relating to your company, which further secures your operations.
Keep reading to learn more about an acceptable use policy and its purpose, how to write an AUP, and how to enforce one within your business.
What Is an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)?
An acceptable use policy, also known as an AUP, is a kind of agreement that outlines the appropriate use of access to a company’s network or the internet by detailing what users may or may not do when utilizing these platforms.
Before a user is authorized to access a network or the internet via the workplace or educational institution, they must agree to the acceptable use policy. A similar step happens when you sign up for internet services with a company—you likely had to agree to a set of stipulations for what is an acceptable use of the internet and their network.
For example, you might see the following ideas employed in a typical acceptable use policy:
- Avoid breaking the law
- Don’t attempt to hack into the network or other users on the network
- Don’t send spam or junk mail and don’t crash the server with mass emails
- Imploring users to report any suspicious or fraudulent activity on the network
These ideas might be common sense, but it’s nevertheless important to have them and other pertinent uses included in your acceptable use policy.
Purpose of an AUP
An acceptable use policy is instrumental for education institutions and businesses to help mitigate cybersecurity risks, avoid participating in illegal activities, and stay productive while on the network or accessing the internet.
Limiting what sites and platforms users can access while on the network is vital for ensuring your company’s users aren’t spending time on sketchy websites that might track activity and reveal vulnerabilities within your network. Utilizing a comprehensive cybersecurity approach that includes avoiding suspicious web and network activity results in a stronger overall cybersecurity posture—which keeps your company, network, assets, and reputation secure.
Plus, restricting illegal or dangerous sites keeps your users on task and away from the time-suck temptations of the internet. An acceptable use policy benefits your company as a whole in terms of cybersecurity hygiene and individual employee productivity!
How to Write an Acceptable Use Policy
Now let’s dive into how to actually write an acceptable use policy; there are a variety of factors to contemplate including depending on what is best for your enterprise and employees. Consider the following:
Appropriate Internet Usage
One of the main components of your acceptable use policy is to outline what is appropriate and what is unacceptable internet usage. Common corners of the internet that get restricted might include:
- Social media accounts
- Streaming platforms
- Online shopping
- Personal email or other personal communications
These sites might be illegal, unproductive, or otherwise suspicious for your employees or users to engage with via the company network.
The acceptable use policy is also helpful for communicating and reiterating good cybersecurity practices for your uses to implement and follow. These might include:
- Using strong passwords, keeping them secret, and changing them regularly
- Not accessing your company’s network or using company devices via public Wi-Fi
- Utilizing multi-factor authentication
Reminding users of these practices and other good cybersecurity tips is helpful to include in your acceptable use policy.
Guest User Policies and Practices
In the situation that your users or employees need to have a guest user on the company’s device or network, be sure to include what practices and policies are in place for these temporary users. For example, outlining that they don’t have access to company assets or folders or detailing the extent to which they can use the network. The overall goal of the acceptable use policy is to articulate what is appropriate or inappropriate for the user, so including the case for guest users covers your bases.
How to Enforce Acceptable Use Policies
Depending on how lengthy your acceptable use policy is, your employees and users might breeze through reading it and not retain any information involved. To help reduce the chance of that happening—and keep your AUP enforced—take these steps:
Keep the Jargon to a Minimum and Use Straightforward Language
If your company’s AUP is full of legal jargon, esoteric terms, and clunky sentences, then your employees aren’t going to understand its details. A lack of understanding leads to a lack of following through on the appropriate uses for your company’s network, which can set off a falling domino reaction of cybersecurity failings and frustration.
Instead, keep the jargon to a minimum and use straightforward language to encourage users to actually read and follow it.
Make the AUP Accessible
To help your employees understand and retain the practices outlined in your company’s AUP, make it accessible and easy for them to reference when needed. For example, include it in the employee handbook and keep it pinned at the top of your internal communications platform. Include a module about it in the onboarding process for new employees and offer refresher courses on it every year to keep everyone on the same page.
Determine a Course of Action for Violations
You and your IT team should have a course of action planned for AUP violations; this might be as brief as a reminder email regarding best practices or something more severe for a major violation. Regardless, it’s difficult to enforce a policy if you don’t have consequences for various stages of a policy’s violation. Consider legal counsel, too, if your company needs to refer to more serious action.
Safeguard Your Enterprise with Compuquip’s Services!
An acceptable use policy is just one of many different ways to mitigate the risk your company’s network, assets, and reputation might face in the world of cybersecurity. With attacks and threats relentlessly targeting companies for their data, it’s important more than ever to maintain a fortified cybersecurity posture.
Partner with Compuquip to bolster your cybersecurity defenses and let your IT professionals focus on more strategic projects. Our experts have decades of experience and dozens of industry-leading certifications, so you know you’re getting the best of the best.
Contact us today to see how we can customize your cybersecurity solutions and safeguard your enterprise!