The internet is a powerful tool for improving your business' efficiency. But it can also be a great way for employees to waste time, damage the security of your IT system and give you legal headaches.
If you do not already have an internet policy, you should actively consider putting one in place. A well thought-out policy can help you enjoy the benefits of the internet while reducing the pitfalls. It encourages employees to use the internet effectively, states what you consider to be acceptable use, and sets up procedures to minimise security and legal risks.
This briefing outlines:
Do not allow employees to change settings or use other software.
You can set your internet connection to close down after a specified time if it is not being used.
For example, production schedules, sales targets, standard letters and forms and company policies.
This may improve employees' internet skills and overall efficiency. But it may be difficult to define 'limited use', and this could make your internet policy harder to enforce.
But the same cost, security and legal issues apply.
Other sites can also be offensive and legally problematic (for example, pornographic sites or sites that promote racism).
Such sites can be major timewasters. For example, online shopping, computer games, sports results and gambling.
This may leave you open to receiving junk email (spam) or other unsolicited marketing materials.
Downloading files from the internet involves risks which your policy should aim to minimise.
The internet can be a tempting environment for many employees, who often see little wrong in downloading material for their personal use during working hours.
The most popular types of downloaded files are generally music, video clips, pornographic images or films and free or demo software.
Make sure your policy states the kinds of file you consider to be unacceptable. Failing to control or ban such downloads could lead to a number of problems.
Time spent online will go up.
The performance of your systems and software may suffer.
The security of your system may be threatened (see 4.1).
There are legal issues.
Their informal nature may encourage employees to make defamatory comments for which you may be liable.
Use your policy to help make sure your website runs smoothly.
Only allow authorised employees to update the site.
Excessively large files will slow down access to your site.
Make this a performance review issue.
But this may fail to block all inappropriate sites and could inadvertently prevent access to useful sites.
You can also use such software to allow access to specified sites only at certain times (eg outside normal working hours).
There are legal restrictions on how you may monitor employees' use of the internet (and email). If you wish to use monitoring software, you must tell employees that you intend to do so in both your internet policy and your employment contracts.
Ask IT experts what automated solutions could work for you.
Typically, the network administrator will be responsible for routine enforcement (eg monitoring traffic). But a director should take overall responsibility.
The policy will only provide legal protection if it is properly implemented and enforced.