Cover Your Assets

Q: My small company is growing and I’m purchasing new technology for my employees. How can I ensure that my intellectual as well as technological assets are protected?
–J. MacGregor, Simi Valley, California

A: Begin by creating a technology policy for your employees and make sure it is part of your company handbook. A technology policy outlines acceptable and unacceptable uses of company assets — PCs, peripherals, software, e-mail, phones, etc. It’s a good idea to discuss the policy with employees so that they are aware of what is expected, and so they know that their use of the equipment may be monitored.

Second, back up your policy. Make sure you have security hardware and software installed, and make sure you monitor the use of your technology. Companies such as Symantec and McAfee offer a wide range of security options for small businesses. And consider applications such as Absolute Software Corp.’s AbsoluteTrack (www.absolute.com), which help you manage your asset inventory — software licenses, upgrades, and so on.

And while I’m not a big fan of workplace monitoring, I understand that some employers concerned about protecting their intellectual assets, or about a problem employee, may also opt to scrutinize employees’ electronic activities on the network, e.g., e-mail sent and received, Websites visited, etc. (See “Big Brother’s Watching,” Techwatch, October 2002 for a review of Spector spy software.) But for a comfortable working environment, make sure your employees understand that “privacy” in the workplace is pretty much a pipe dream. Many companies employ some, if not all, of the aforementioned tools to protect their assets. You should, too.

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