Managing the Corporate Internet

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The other day we busted one of our employees gaming on the internet during work hours. Because we have the same concerns as you – getting the most out of our employees while still some fun from time to time – I was understandably irritated. I mean, after all if you run your outfit like we run ours, you give people the benefit of the doubt, right? You don’t want to have to micro-manage people to the extent that you are defining what they can’t do on the web; you would hope that they can police themselves, right? They know the difference between right and wrong, yes? Guess again.

And that is why you need an electronic Acceptable Usage Policy or AUP. Because when you give people enough rope to hang themselves, many folks will go right on ahead and do just that. We’ve seen it time and time again. Throughout the years, many of our clients have called us in to help them police their corporate internet usage. And we’ve seen it all: from pornography to file sharing (think Limewire) to online dating to online gaming. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

So does an AUP stop people from going where they know they shouldn’t be going? Nope, not a chance. But at least now they know what can happen if they get busted AND more importantly, you have legal grounds for dismissal since they have to sign the AUP as a prerequisite for employment. This is hugely important. If you bust someone for something really bad, say – kiddie porn, you can dismiss them without fear of a legal argument such as the old standard of “you didn’t tell me I couldn’t do that”. Like you should even have to tell them – but you do. With an AUP, there is no blurring of the lines. And if it is not something as insidious as kiddie porn and is just a stupid indiscretion (like in our case) or even it is not fire-able offense, it can go on their permanent record and no one can cry foul. It’s all there in black and white and you signed it, buster!

Many organizations have their employees sign the agreement annually (like during a performance review) and some take it one step further: the AUP is the first page they see when they fire up a browser and they must agree to the terms before they can even get past the first page. That is taking it pretty far but I have seen it. How much is too much? I suppose that depends on you and your own corporate policy. But if you are interested in seeing the AUP of an IT support company, click the preceding link, fill out the form below and it’s all yours. Oh – and before you even think about implementing it, talk to your lawyer as we can be in no way responsible for any consequences relating to its usage (that’s the disclaimer designed to absolve us of any legal repsonsibility).

Do you already have an AUP? Have you had to play that card? Tell us all about it! If not, fill out the form and you can have the one we use. Modify it or leave it alone but don’t forget to check with your lawyer!