Good Network Citizenship


I.T. professionals understand things like network security, bandwidth, and the chain of support that results from a good help desk system. But what about your average employee? The average employee often lacks basic skills in good network citizenship. With the trend toward I.T. becoming a closer partner with all segments of your company, this citizenship is becoming more and more crucial to a healthy functioning business. How do you bridge this gap? We do it by sending out a “Good Network Citizenship” document to every employee. In this article, I will go over what exactly is involved with the creation of that document.

First, your good citizenship document should be sent out under the names of the I.T. manger and the owner/President of the company. No less an authority is required to impress upon employees the need for compliance with the principles stated within. This also sets the tone for the times when non-compliance is an issue. Second, post the document in at least one area of the company for easy reference.

What should the document contain? Inside should be a clear statement of the principles that guide employees to good network citizenship. Some of the policies we include in our document are:

a) Single point of contact – whether you have full help desk capabilities or just a designated person and number to call, it is best to provide a single point of contact between employees and the I.T. staff. This provides clarity and trackability for all issues. It puts the I.T. provider in the driver’s seat in terms of monitoring what the issues are and how they are being addressed.

b) Software Installation Policy – we recommend a no software installation policy for all employees. This is obviously to prevent any malicious code from infecting the network, as well as preventing any conflicts with the current network environment. We advise employees that if there is software they need which is not currently provided, that they should consult with us first. Non-compliance with this policy in our company results in that employee’s computer being locked down against any changes. It is also a good idea to provide a list of all software that is approved on the server and workstation level, so that all employees are clear.

c) Document Storage – One common question posed to I.T. staff is “where should I store my documents?” Don’t assume that employees know the answer to this question. We provide a path with diagrams showing the exact location where employees should store their documents. For shared documents, we also indicate exactly how employees can access public folders for such use.

d) Web browsing – Whatever your policy is, just make sure that you have a policy! State it clearly and simply, so that employees have a practical understanding of what is expected of them. At our company, we say that browsing is for business purposes only. As a corollary, we also tell employees not to go to unsafe sites on the web, and never to download software from the web as this might result in the introduction of malicious code into the network.

e) E-mail attachments – we urge employees not to open email attachments unless they are from a trusted source. Generally, files with the .exe or .bat extensions should never be opened.

f) General requests – in general, the good citizenship document is a good place to summarize things like how to remotely access the network for those approved to do so, how to access internal forms of the company, etc.

These are just some of the policies that we state in our good network citizenship document. What are the policies of your company when it comes to network usage? It’s a good idea to become clear on those policies and then communicate them to your employees in a concise document.