Information Technology Support Policies for Small Businesses
What does Information Technology (IT) support policies mean for today’s small businesses? Lets start by looking at IT support which entails a team in a company or organization that provides technical assistance to people who have difficulties with their computer systems. In reality, it’s much more than just that as every company whose roles and support are defined by computers, email, the Internet, and software on a daily basis should have information technology (IT) support policies in place.
Without policies, employees will never know what is expected in the use of technology provided by their employer. In turn, a company needs to protect itself, so it becomes essential for owners to have policies governing areas such as personal Internet and email use, security, software and hardware inventory and data retention. Addressing these areas gives business owners the knowledge of potential lost time and productivity and sets down rules for employees for their personal Internet usage.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Susan, from the marketing department, has a ten-year-old daughter who is selling brownies for her school’s annual fundraiser. Susan decides to send an email to the entire company letting everyone know to sign up in the break room and they can email their orders to her within the next week. Is this an appropriate use of the company email system?
- In the sales department, Tim’s acquisition software is getting updated. Since he cannot perform his duties until the update is complete, Tim decides to surf the web to pass the time. He remembers about a provocative video involving a celebrity that his co-workers mentioned and decides to Google it. In the process, Tim stumbles across several pornographic websites that catch his attention. Does this constitute appropriate use of the Internet at work? What are the ramifications for Tim if a co-worker sees what he’s searching online? What are the implications for the company in general if that co-worker files a sexual harassment charge as a result?
While both are ethical dilemmas for any professional office, without written policies, there are no standards or guidelines for companies to fall back on. We present several areas below that every company with online access should set as an IT policy:
IT Policy Guidelines
Acceptable Use of Technology: Guidelines for the use of computers, fax machines, telephones, Internet, email, and voice-mail and the consequences for misuse.
Security: Guidelines for passwords, levels of access to the network, virus protection, confidentiality, and the usage of data.
Data Recovery: Guidelines for salvage in the event of a disaster, and data backup methods.
Technology Standards: Guidelines to determine a company standardization for software, hardware, and systems that are used at the company. Policies should also include prohibited software/hardware such as instant messenger or MP3 music software.
Network Configuration: Guidelines regarding how the network is set-up, how to add new employees to the network, (or remove former employees) permission levels for employees, and licensing of software.
IT Services: Guidelines and protocol to determine how technology issues will be addressed, responsible employees/teams to handle: technical support, maintenance, installation, and long-term technology planning.
If your business is not particularly technically savvy then the thought of creating IT policies may be particularly daunting. However, there are several resources that can assist you with templates without having draft up from scratch.
- ITtoolkit.com (www.ittoolkit.com)
Created by Right Track Associates, Inc. the purpose of this website is to bring cost effective management tools to the IT and project management business communities. The site provides great information and templates to help companies standardize their IT practices.
- Tech Republic (techrepublic.com)
Produced by CNET Networks, Inc., “Tech Republic serves the needs of professionals representing all segments of the IT industry, providing information and tools for IT decision support and professional advice by job function.” The site offers templates such as “Small Office IT Policies” at affordable prices.
Of course, like most everything, no two businesses are exactly alike and the situational needs and requirements for their IT policies will differ from company to company. In contrast, simply having IT policies and procedures simply for the sake of having them is ineffectual. While it may appease the boss to have something on paper, bigger problems can arise out of situations where no policy exists. Policies also need to be enforceable. A policy with no teeth or repercussions is as ineffective as having no policy at all. Employ the services of a technology consultant that can make recommendations for policies according to your business needs.