IT Policies and Why They’re Essential to SMB Success

it policy
  • July 12, 2017
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There’s no shortage of advice available to SMBs about using information technology (IT) to secure their company. We share plenty of it right here, in fact. But deploying the latest technology does little to protect a small business without enforceable, strategy-driven IT policies to clearly guide its use.

Why IT Policies Matter

The complexity of even a small enterprise demands a practical mix of IT policies that foster business security and success. Some policies clearly spell out how employees are to use (or not use) technology in the workplace. They detail expected behaviors, steps and precautions for using IT assets, and affirm in unambiguous terms, consequences for violations. Such penalties could range from a simple reprimand to termination, and in extreme cases, criminal prosecution.

Other policies provide an adaptable framework for IT staff, guiding and informing initiatives beyond simply controlling user behavior. Such guidance enables teams to expand risk mitigation and maximize ROI on IT investments throughout the enterprise. Collectively, all IT policies should combine to help SMBs effectively:

  • Achieve strategic business goals
  • Reduce exposure to cyberattacks, such as ransomware
  • Safeguard sensitive data
  • Maintain and prove compliance
  • Prepare for and recover from unexpected events

Scores of Options

Which IT policies your SMB implements will depend on your goals and your IT Managed Services Provider’s (IT MSP) recommendation, along with any undesirable user behaviors you want to correct.
A small sampling of popular IT policy categories, and examples within each functional area, include:

  • User Policies, which govern rules and procedures for managing: employee email usage; accounts and passwords; remote access; privacy and confidentiality; user training and privileges; and employee onboarding and termination.
  • Data Protection, which governs rules and procedures for: classifying sensitive data; assessing risk level of specific data types; encrypting data based risk and sensitivity criterion.
  • Network IT Policies, which govern rules and procedures for managing: internet connections; approved software applications; telecom and wireless communications; perimeter security; and web filtering (aka “surf control”).
  • System Protection, which governs rules and procedures for managing: virus detection and patch management; data backup and recovery; server documentation; computer and printer naming; and audit trail procedures.
  • General IT Security, which governs rules and procedures for managing: security incident response; disaster recovery; physical security; third-party (vendor, partner) identities and access.
  • Incident Reporting, which governs how companies should respond to and report data breaches and other security incidents, such as lost or stolen laptops, computers and mobile devices.

Traits of an Effective IT Policy
Effective IT policies help protect an organization and facilitate effective operations through clarity, relevance and consistency. However, IT policies should not be so onerous and restrictive that they impede productivity and tempt employees to circumvent them. As any good IT MSP will tell you, the most effective policies tend to be:

  • Endorsed and supported by company leaders
  • Relevant and applicable to the organization
  • Realistic and attainable
  • Adaptable and inclusive
  • Reviewed and updated regularly
  • Measurable and enforceable

Be sure to check back soon. Future posts planned on the subject of SMB IT policies include policies that all businesses should have, and tips for building policy awareness and enforcing any IT policy that you put into place.

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ITinflections is a blog that covers a wide range of technology-based articles IT in the workplace, focusing on small- to medium-sized businesses.

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