You know you need a network access policy; you may even have one hidden away in a file - but are you sure it covers your business if you need it?
Let's take a look at what we, here at IT Soho, consider are the critical points your policy should cover.
What is a network access policy?
A network access policy is a document that outlines the rules and guidelines for who can access your company's network and what they can do once they're in.
But why is it so crucial for your small business?
Here are a few reasons:
Security - Cyber threats are real, and safeguarding your network is non-negotiable. A robust policy can help protect your data from breaches and cyberattacks.
Productivity and efficiency - Your policy defines who can access what, streamlining processes and ensuring employees have the right resources to do their jobs efficiently.
Compliance - Many industries have strict regulations about data security and privacy. A network access policy can help you stay compliant.
Scalability - As your business grows, so do your IT needs. A well-crafted policy can adapt to your evolving requirements.
Reduced risk of data loss - Data loss can have significant consequences for a business. The clarity in your network access policy minimises the likelihood of accidental data loss or exposure.
Streamlined troubleshooting - In network issues or security incidents, a network access policy can expedite troubleshooting. It provides clear guidelines for identifying and resolving problems, making it easier for your IT team to maintain network integrity.
Cost Savings - Reducing the risk of security breaches and data loss minimises the potential financial impact of legal penalties.
What to include in your networking access policy
We recommend considering the following components when creating your new or updated policy.
IT team roles and responsibilities - Your IT team is crucial in implementing and enforcing the network access policy. This section outlines their duties, including monitoring, maintenance, and responding to security incidents. Ensure your policy also includes guidance for IT service providers who are not in-house team members.
Employee system access - System access refers to permissions granted to employees for specific parts of your network. It's essential to determine who has access to what, whether it's databases, servers, or other critical systems. Tight control over system access enhances security.
Your remote access needs - When your staff leave the office and work from, well, anywhere, they take access to your business with them. Ask yourself - What access limitations do you need to put in place that allow your team to be productive and effective but avoid security breaches?
Employee device access - Whether your team are using smartphones, laptops, or tablets, it's crucial to define the rules for device access. Make sure you also include guidelines for personal use of business devices or business software use on personal devices.
Employee software access - Which software and applications do your staff need to do their job, and which don't they need access to? This should include details for cloud-based software. Remember to have guidelines and persons responsible for installing updates and new software to business devices.
Employee intranet and internet access - In most businesses, there will be a combination of cloud-based and device-based software; to access these, your team will need intranet and internet connections. Define acceptable use policies alongside access policies.
Off-boarding and rescinding access rights - At some point, your staff will leave your business. When they do, it is vital that you have an off-boarding process in place that caters for your system access security. Here's our guide on how to handle that.
How to create a draft for your network access policy
As with any policy, even just updating one, it's best to start from scratch. Why? Because the last time your policy saw the light of day, your business was in a very different position. Since then, you've grown or added new systems. Your approach shouldn't be to band-aid a historic solution; instead, it should align with your goals for the business you are growing into.
Next, you'll need to decide on acceptable access rules. Determining who needs access to what is best approached by speaking with your key stakeholders and department heads. After all, they know your day-to-day workflows and staff tasks better than you do at this point (and that's what you pay them for).
Security should be at the forefront of your policy detail, so it's best to look at this next. You'll need your IT team or service providers (like us!) to help you define encryption requirements, password complexity rules, and other security measures to safeguard your network. Use your team to explore ISO/IEC 27001 - It is a valuable system and data security reference when crafting your policy.
At this point, look at compliance - Does your proposal align with legal and ethical standards, particularly for using data across devices and software?
Most of all, when drafting your network access policy, keep the policy clear, concise, and understandable for all employees. You want to encourage adherence, and you do that by making it easy to work with.
As with any policy implementation, there will be teething problems
How you approach initial problems during the implementation process will make all the difference to your outcome. Let's work through some challenges together.
Challenge: Balancing security with compliance can be tricky. While you want to ensure your network is secure, you must also meet industry-specific compliance requirements.
Solution: Collaborate with your IT team or hire experts who understand your industry's regulations. They can help you implement security measures that align with compliance standards, ensuring your network is secure and compliant.
Challenge: Even with a well-crafted policy, its effectiveness depends on how well your employees understand and follow it.
Solution: Invest in comprehensive training programs that educate your employees about the policy's importance and how to adhere to its guidelines. Regular reminders and updates can keep awareness high.
Challenge: If your network access policy isn't scalable and adaptable, it can become obsolete quickly.
Solution: As part of your policy, build in provisions for scalability. Ensure it's easy to update from a basic starter framework. Regular reviews should be a part of this process to ensure the policy stays aligned with your evolving needs.
Challenge: Implementing a network access policy requires effective monitoring and enforcement.
Solution: Work closely with your IT team to establish monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. Use technology to track network access and ensure the policy's rules are followed. Clear consequences for policy violations can also be a strong deterrent.
Challenge: Miscommunication can lead to policy violations.
Solution: Regularly update employees on policy changes and make the policy easily accessible for reference. Encourage open lines of communication for employees to seek clarifications.
Other commonly asked questions
If you have any more questions, here are a few we can help with on the blog.
How often should I update my network access policy?
An annual review is a good practice, but more frequent updates may be necessary if you find yourself in a more rapidly changing environment. Remember to dig it out when the unforeseen happens, too. The Pandemic is an excellent example of an unexpected change that needed immediate policy action.
Is employee training necessary for policy adherence?
Yes, employee training is crucial. To ensure that your network access policy is followed effectively, your employees must know the policy's guidelines and understand their importance.
Can I get professional assistance to create my policy?
Yes, professional IT service providers like us can assist you in creating, implementing, and maintaining your network access policy.
What are the consequences of not having a network access policy?
Without a network access policy, your business may face security breaches, inefficient resource allocation, compliance violations, and inconsistent growth. A well-structured approach can prevent these issues.
Where can I find templates for network access policies?
You can find generic network access policy templates online. However, it's advisable to customise these templates to suit your business's unique needs and seek professional guidance to ensure they are comprehensive and compliant.
So, what's next in updating your network access policy?
In writing this post, we've outlined some best practice tips; now, it's over to you to tackle policy creation with your team.
If your business is in central London, contact Eric today to learn how our services can help you with policy creation and delivery.