What Is an Acceptable Use Policy and What’s In It for MSPs?

Computer network usage can be a bear to get a handle on — which is why your MSP clients typically lean on their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). This semi-legal agreement defines the rules that govern what individuals within a networked community may and may not do. When put to use, an AUP can enhance cybersecurity, reduce liability, and promote productivity in the workplace. Here’s how:

What Is an Acceptable Use Policy?

Also known as a fair use policy, an acceptable use policy is an agreement involving two or more parties to a computer network community. It expresses one’s commitment to adhering to an outlined standard of behavior regarding the proper use of specific hardware and software.

Acceptable use policies are used by owners and managers of large computer infrastructures, including corporations, website owners, schools and universities, and ISPs. The goals of these policies include mitigating security risks, avoiding participation in illegal activities, establishing basic etiquette, and promoting productivity.

What Are AUPs Used For?

Businesses use AUPs to set clear rules for employees using company computers and the internet. This helps protect the company's valuable information and data. Below are some of the most important aspects of acceptable use policies, including AUP policy examples of what should be included and why.

AUPs for Employees

As the main users of the computer infrastructure of a business, employees are the first focus of an AUP. An AUP may outline how employees are expected to use their work computers, devices, and the internet. It may also state how employees can access the business’s computer system and network when working remotely or from their devices. Employers should ensure that new employees have read and signed this agreement before giving access to a network, and it should be written in easy-to-understand terms.

AUP in Cybersecurity

An AUP is more than just a set of rules for how to use and not use a computer network. It can also act as a tool for educating employees about information security and data management practices. All digitally connected work environments are wrought with cybersecurity risks, but an AUP helps mitigate those risks by communicating good practices to implement and follow. This may include practices around the creation of strong passwords, managing multifactor authentication, opening unrecognized emails, or accessing a company’s network via public Wi-Fi.

AUP Internet Use Policies

An acceptable use policy (AUP) clarifies the purpose of the internet for employees, defines appropriate and inappropriate use, and helps improve security, reduce liability, and even boost productivity. Certain sites can put a business at risk, so an AUP typically restricts access to personal social media accounts, streaming platforms, online shopping, pornography, and gambling, at a minimum.

AUP Violations and Risk

More than simply regulating the behavior of employees and educating them on best practices, an AUP policy outlines the consequences for those who fail to comply. An important aspect is monitoring the network for potential violations and making employees aware that they’re being monitored. Enforcement is also crucial and can be as simple as a reminder email that outlines best practices, depending on the severity of the violation.

Bear in mind that an AUP is considered a semi-legal document. In the case of a security breach or audit, it can provide due diligence and needful evidence of a “duty of care.” Getting employees' consent before they ever access a network minimizes the chance that a business is held liable when an employee is in contravention of the policy.

How to Capitalize on AUP Compliance

Most organizations have an AUP in place, and that represents an opportunity for the MSPs who service them. Offering AUP compliance services can help you drive business growth and differentiate yourself in the competitive MSP landscape. With Compliance Scorecard’s governance as a service (GaaS) platform, you can offer templates and tools to draft, manage, and enforce AUPs (and much more!) effectively.

Here are some of the platform features that you can leverage to position your MSP as the compliance partner every business needs amid tightening regulations and enforcement:

  • Policy Development and Management: Compliance Scorecard allows for the creation, customization, and management of policy documents, including AUPs. This ensures that policies are up-to-date, clear, and accessible to all relevant stakeholders.
  • Document Library: With a centralized document library, you can store and easily distribute AUPs, making sure all stakeholders have access to the latest version of the policy.
  • Audience Segmentation: The platform enables you to segment audiences into specific groups, such as employees, contractors, or departments, and share relevant policies accordingly. This ensures that each group understands its responsibilities and the acceptable use of IT resources.
  • Acknowledgment Tracking: Compliance Scorecard can track acknowledgments from users, confirming that they have read and understood the AUP. This feature is crucial for demonstrating compliance and accountability.
  • Automated Reminders: The platform can send automated reminders to users who have not yet acknowledged the AUP, ensuring that all personnel are compliant with the policy requirements.
  • Reporting and Auditing: Compliance Scorecard provides detailed reporting and auditing capabilities, allowing clients to monitor compliance levels, identify gaps, and take corrective action. This is essential for internal audits and proving compliance to external regulators or auditors.
  • Integration Capabilities: The ability to integrate with other systems (such as HR or IT management tools) ensures that the AUP is enforced across all platforms and that compliance is maintained in real time.

Let’s Talk! Contact Us at Compliance Scorecard

Contact us to learn more about developing AUP compliance services using our GaaS platform, or sign up for a free demo and see how it works firsthand. You can also download our risk assessment guide, to get an idea of what AUP security controls should consist of.

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