5 Essential IT Policies Every Business Should Have

5 Essential IT Policies Every Business Should Have

IT policies refer to the rules and guidelines organizations establish to determine how:

  • IT resources are acquired, managed, and used.
  • IT-centric services are delivered.
  • Users get support.

Still, many small and medium-sized businesses show hidden disinterest in a formal IT policy. Instead, they unofficially tell their employees what to do and expect when it comes to the use of the organization’s IT infrastructure. This could have negative consequences down the line. Policy compliance and regulatory matters have been rated as high or very high risk by 51% of internal auditors.

And without a formally acknowledged IT policy (preferably in writing), your business risks falling into legal and financial debacles with a far-reaching impact. In this article, we rounded up five  IT policies business managers should consider.

1. Data Protection and Privacy Policy

Mounting concerns regarding the collection, storage, and use of personal data have sparked ongoing debates about the safety of personal data. The number of data breach incidents has skyrocketed from 447 to over 1800 in just a few short years, with most breaches carrying a financial incentive.

Some fundamental clauses of a data protection and privacy policy include:

  • Data encryption – Encryption jambles sensitive data. Only the intended recipient with the right encryption keys can read the data.
  • Data storage – Stored data, whether on premises or cloud storage is securely protected and encrypted.
  • Important data categories and authorized use – Your data protection and privacy policy classifies sensitive and non-sensitive user information and its authorized use.

Outside the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)  and other existing data protection laws, organizations have a moral duty to protect the data of their employees and consumers. Data protection policies exist for this sole reason: to protect sensitive data from unauthorized collection, storage, or use. 

2. Acceptable Use Policy

About 77% of employees access social media accounts during work hours while 19% spend more than one working hour on social media. With the rise of remote work, these numbers are likely to rise. Internal factions of rogue employees have also been known to use company resources for crypto mining, often with heavy financial implications

An acceptable use policy is designed to prevent incidents of rogue use. The acceptable use policy defines social media use etiquette and regulates what information can and cannot be shared about the company.

But more importantly, the policy regulates infrastructure and network use. For instance, company-issued devices should not be used for personal activities since they could jeopardize the organization’s data security. Additionally, user devices should be updated regularly to address new security threats.

3. Incident Response Policy

Data breaches have picked up the pace over recent years. Every day, CISOs and IT managers have to keep an eye over evolving hacker tactics. In the event that malicious actors make it past your cyber defenses, you’ll need an action strategy to mitigate the risk, contain the breach, and eliminate the threat.

An incident response policy aims to minimize the impact of a successful data breach. Often, successful data breaches are marked by a period of organization-wide unrest and uncertainty. An incident response policy provides a structured approach in the event of a data breach.

Inside this policy are the breach containment procedures, defined roles and responsibilities, and forensic analysis processes. A post-breach analysis is carried out to identify vulnerable areas for improvement.

4. Access Control Policy

Access Control Policy image

Your access control policy defines who can access your organization’s sensitive data. This policy limits unauthorized access to sensitive data, securing it from both internal and external unauthorized use.

Password-protected sensitive information can only be accessed by employees with high-level clearance. However, with about 77% of data breaches resulting from compromised passwords, chief information security officers (CISOs) should consider a separate password policy for more effective access control.

The least prevalence principle should be adopted where employees are given access to the minimum level of access needed to perform their responsibilities. Monitoring access logs and reviewing user activity helps identify suspicious log-in activity.

5. Patch Management Policy

Information and operational technology infrastructure and assets face endless security risks. Patch management policies govern the deployment of security patches in response to these threats.

The policy maximizes security while minimizing disruptions. Patch management policies also help businesses stay updated with the various facets of cybersecurity, including hardware and software updates, systems updates, repair, and maintenance.

While these policies may not cover your IT’s security and efficiency from a 360-degree angle, additional measures can be taken to boost their efficiency.

Regular System Audits and Compliance Risk Assessment

69% of company executives lack confidence that their IT policies meet the future needs of their company. Regular policy review and compliance risk assessment help IT professionals weigh and minimize their organization’s risks. 

Regular audits and compliance are essential for updating IT policies to keep up with emerging cybersecurity threats and regulatory requirements.

Employee Awareness Training

Employees are considered the weakest link in cybersecurity, resulting in about 95% of breaches. Continuous awareness training boosts the employees’ knowledge on the company’s IT policies and data handling practices.

Businesses need to shift focus to developing IT policies that help uphold their cybersecurity posture. To expedite the process, consult with a managed service provider in Charlotte NC.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process for updating IT policies?

Updating IT policies starts with thorough evaluation of the current needs and issues facing your organization’s day to day. Since IT policies shape technology use company-wide, communicate with and seek input from various user departments once the updates have been rolled out.

How often should IT policies be reviewed?

IT policies should be reviewed at least once a year. Regular reviews ensure policies stay relevant and effective to fend off new attack vectors and address new trends in the IT industry at large.

What are the consequences of not adhering to IT policies?

Non-compliance with IT policies can lead to data breaches, financial losses, a tarnished brand image, and legal penalties. Non-compliant actions may further expose your organization to cyber attacks.

Who is Responsible for enforcing IT policies?

The IT department is responsible for implementing IT policies. Departmental heads and human resource managers may also be tasked with ensuring that IT policies are adhered to and that non-compliant employees are held accountable.

How are new employees informed about existing IT policies?

New employees are informed about existing IT policies during onboarding. Employers should provide comprehensive training, detailed documentation, and access to the IT policy to ensure that employees understand and comply.


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