IT Assessment and Your Business

Managing growth in an IT environment can become very complicated very quickly, and what about security? An IT assessment from Advance2000 will put you on the path to a healthy business environment.

The Most Important Part of Your 2020 IT Budget

With 2019 rapidly coming to an end, now is the time to review your 2020 IT budget and the Advance2000 team is here to support you!

Hybrid Cloud for Business

Setting Your 2019 IT Budget

Your School Connected: E-Rate Updates for 2019

Your School Connected: E-Rate Updates for 2019

The filing window for the School and Libraries Universal Service Support Program—more commonly known as E-Rate—is nearly open. E-Rate has been a significant relief on school spending and helped districts stretch their already thin budgets.

Administrative Window

Make certain your organization’s E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) profile is correct and up to date. The administrative window to update profiles is open until the application filing window opens. Make certain your FCC Registration Number is correct, contact info is up to date, and if any entities under you are active and present. If you’re a school, make certain your student count is from the most recent information available, as that effects the discount rates the school is eligible for.  For libraries, verify the square footage and the main library branch. If you’re independent, choose your library as the main branch.

Discount rates are in Figure 1, per the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC).

Figure 1: USAC Discount Matrix

A new FCC Form 470 might not be necessary, as an FCC Form 470 can be good for a few years because the equipment and services requested on it might be on a multi-year contract. However, the corresponding FCC Form 471 needs to be resubmitted each year with reference to the standing Form 470 to continue to receive discounts on those goods and services.

That time is upon us.

Funding Year 2019 (FY2019)

The Federal Communication Commission released the 2019 Eligible Service List (https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-1173A1.pdf) which reflects a few changes from previous years. We’ve broken it down further into plain language below.

E-Rate is divided into two categories, appropriately names Category One (C1) and Category Two (C2). We’ll address the changes in each one individually.


Category One (C1) Changes, Clarifications, and Updates

The first category of eligible supported services includes the equipment and services needed to support broadband connectivity to schools and libraries.

Maintenance and Operations

Previously this was referred to as ‘Maintenance and Technical Support’ and it was just a yes/no question. Now, Maintenance and Operations is an item in the C1 services drop down menu (see figure 2).

Voice Communications

Dedicated voice channels on an ISDN circuit are no longer eligible. This follows the 2014 First E-Rate Order that declared it would phase down E-Rate program funding for VoIP services. FY2018 was the last year VoIP was eligible for discounts, and Voice Services will no longer appear on the FY2019 form. USAC shared what the new service drop down menu will look like in their “Preparing for Funding Year 2019” webinar on December 12, 2018:

Figure 2: FY2019 FCC Form 470 C1 Services Drop Down Menu

You’ll notice that while Voice Services is no longer there, Cellular Data Plan/Air Card Service is still available. For more of a breakdown of what each service entails, you can read about them in detail in USAC’s C1 Reference Table (https://www.usac.org/_res/documents/sl/pdf/handouts/FCC-Form-470-C1-Dropdown-Table.pdf).

While Voice Services has been removed from the FCC 470 C1 Services Drop-Down menu, VoIP is still considerably more affordable than landlines (https://business.frontier.com/blog/voip-vs-landline-phones/). Individual landlines can cost up to $120/month, versus individual VoIP lines can run as low as $28/month (although you might be left to your own phone support at that price). If your school or library already has VoIP enabled telephony equipment, Advance2000 offers SIP extensions for significantly less than the national average price listed here.

Choose Bids Wisely

Competitive bidding needs to be an essential consideration in the provider you go with. When schools are audited for managing the approved budget as efficiently as possible, healthy funds shows leadership competency. The E-Rate program recommends maintaining all bid quotes, not just the bid you go with, for 10 years.

A shining example of smart bidding is Rochester Community Schools. They received praise for running a tight ship when an unmodified audit opinion revealed their school district was in “great financial standing” (https://patch.com/michigan/rochester/rochester-school-district-praised-good-financial-standing). The audit from the previous year wasn’t as rosy, and an action plan to spend down in specific areas helped the Rochester, MI district correct course. The district currently receives 75% of their funding directly from the State, however leadership is well aware that number isn’t guaranteed year over year. Director of Financial Services Matthew McDaniel pointed out that “[w]ith a new political environment, we are uncertain as to the resources that will be made available to Michigan schools…If funding were to be cut, we have enough resources to continue operating our organization.” Make certain that any audit performed on your school will result in similar praise for management of funds.

Eligible Category One Network Equipment

Some of the language has been changed to help clarify eligibility of network equipment. Any additional equipment or modulating electronics necessary to make a school or library’s network equipment functional is eligible for E-Rate. The Order specifically reiterates that “all equipment and services …must be competitively bid” (page 2 https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-1173A1.pdf).

There is the option for schools and libraries to lease or rent network equipment. Incurred fees for rented equipment are also eligible for E-Rate support (page 2).


Category Two (C2) Changes, Clarifications, and Updates

Possibly the more confusing of the two categories, due to the scope of eligible items, C2 is dedicated to “the internal connections necessary to bring broadband into, and provide it throughout, schools and libraries” (page 10). Like C1, both equipment and services required to make this possible are eligible for E-Rate discounts.

Supporting Software for High-Speed Broadband Distribution

This isn’t new, but it is being clarified, as supporting software was previously thrown into the Miscellaneous section and there was confusion as to whether it was covered or not. If any software is needed to distribute broadband throughout the school and library, that software is eligible for E-Rate discounts.

Important to note: Software upgrades and patches are considered basic maintenance and are not eligible as supporting software. Whichever service provider you go with, make certain their basic maintenance packages include software upgrades and patches.

Eligibility of Category Two Equipment

Same as C1, equipment that makes high-speed broadband service functional is eligible. That includes, but is not limited to, leased or rented equipment. This means that “[f]unctionalities…that can be virtualized in the cloud, and equipment that combines eligible functionalities, like routing and switching, are also eligible” (page 10).

Cloud hosted services and support have been our bread and butter for the past 20 years here at Advance2000. We’ve saved schools, governments, and businesses tens of thousands of dollars a year virtualizing their IT departments. If your school or library is tight on space, concerned about vandalism, or is looking to upgrade equipment without the monstrous costs associated with updating, we can help determine if a cloud solution makes sense for your individual situation (https://www.advance2000.com/).

Basic Maintenance Contracts

E-Rate support is available for yearly basic maintenance services for broadband connectivity. Be certain to take advantage of Basic Maintenance support during the 2019 filing window, because as the Order restates, the Commission only extended broadband basic maintenance eligibility through the FY2019 (page 5, footnote 41).

Per the FY2019 Order, the Basic Maintenance eligible for discount under E-Rate is here in Figure 3:

Figure 3: FY2019 Order Eligible Basic Maintenance

Advance2000’s support plans include and hold to these restrictions to maintain our E-Rate partner standing.

Specific Eligible Category Two Equipment

Once again, the FCC has declined to provide a list of specific equipment and services eligible under C2 subcategories.

This isn’t a bad thing, as publishing a list could leave certain eligible services and equipment unnamed. If something isn’t listed, they’re concerned that an eligible product or service might be left off Form 470 or 471, which would put a school or library at a financial disadvantage. USAC prefers that requesting parties leave nothing off and they will approve Forms on a case-by-case basis so each district receives the support it needs.


E-Rate and Advance2000

Advance2000 has been a qualified E-Rate service provider for over a decade. We’ve bid and won dozens of FCC Form 470s and Requests for Proposals and our partners have been very happy with the results we’ve provided (https://www.advance2000.com/industries/education/). In collaboration with school IT departments, we’ve offered our expertise to our partners on an as-needed basis while they sought discounts for services via the Form 471.

Your Funding Year 2019 Partner

A seasoned partner will deliver and install the correct firewalls, supporting software, and provide basic support online and by phone for a smooth 2019.

As we’re experts in the IT service industry, have years of E-Rate experience under our belt, and have worked with enough schools to thoroughly understand the budget constraints districts encounter, you can feel confident in the solution we’ll deliver.

For more information about our role in E-Rate and how we can help your school and library get connected for a discount, contact us at 1-800-238-2621.

Back to Basics: Creating Effective PowerPoint Presentations

Death by PowerPoint! 

It doesn’t have to be.  PowerPoint, like a lot of tools, is as good or bad as the user.  Read the following tips in this article and you will be giving more effective PowerPoint presentations in no time.  Even if you’re already a PowerPoint Zen Master, you still might pick up an idea or two.  Let’s make PowerPoint a more effective tool.

Develop a 4 Step Presentation

  1. Grab your audience’s attention. Use an interesting quote, anecdote or an outrageous statement.  You can use humor but beware….not everyone can be funny, humor requires timing and relevance so be warned.
  2. State your purpose. Why are you up there talking?  What problem are you trying to solve?  What is the solution?  Is the presentation explaining how you go from problem to solution?  Make sure you don’t say one thing and present another.
  3. Use examples and stories. A lot has been written about storytelling.  Stories generate interest and illustrate a point much better than slides of numbers and bullets.
  4. Wrap it up. Go back to your purpose and explain how your presentation supported your purpose.  Sum up the key takeaways and remember to leave time for questions if appropriate.

Presentation Content

  •  Get to the point. Make sure each slide contains relevant information.  Condense your information and make it sharp and concise.  Make your point and then support it with description, examples, and anecdotes.
  • Use short clear descriptive bullet points. Don’t make lists, make points.  Avoid writing sentences in your slide bullets, write short reminders and then fill in the detail with your spoken words.
  • How about no text at all? Simply use a title and an image/graphic for each slide.  This forces your audience to listen to what you say, there is nothing for them to read.
  • The title of each slide should be descriptive. It is the largest item on the page, make good use of it.
  • Consider the use of blank (black) slides to re-focus the attention on you, the presenter, instead of the slides. Put up a black slide and all eyes turn to you to LISTEN.
  • Rule of 6 – Never put more than 6 bullets on a page. If you have 20 points to make, condense the information or spread it over 5 slides.  Remember the audience can read faster than you can talk.  They have already read the whole slide before you open your mouth.  Don’t ever read the bullets, fill in the blanks, add color and detail, don’t repeat what is already there.

Develop an Agenda

  •  Use an Agenda slide. During the presentation, refer back to the Agenda slide so your audience can follow where you are in the presentation.  The agenda slide is very important in long presentations.  It keeps the audience from getting lost and it can be used to track progress and anchor your presentation.
  • In his excellent book on presentation, Beyond Bullet Points, author Cliff Atkinson stresses the concept of breaking down the presentation into smaller more digestible parts and using anchor slides to guide the audience through the presentation and through your slides. He makes a convincing argument you should create signposts throughout your presentation to keep the audience from being lost or confused.

Using Visuals

  • Using visuals in your presentation can help the audience AND the speaker. As I said earlier, using a picture or graphic can shift the focus from the PowerPoint to you, the speaker.  If you ONLY use graphics on your slide, the audience is forced to listen to what you say.  They will not just read your slide and go back to their phone and email.
  • Visuals can add useful information. Especially when you are trying to explain numbers, a graph is much more helpful than a table of numbers.
  • Visuals take the focus OFF a nervous speaker. If you walk through a slide using one or multiple visual images, the attention will be on the slides and not on the fidgeting speaker.
  • Visuals remind the speaker of points to cover.
  • When using visuals make sure you have the rights or permission to use the images and graphics. Stick with Creative Commons or Public Domain images in your presentation or create your own.  Make sure you give proper credit or attribution when using visuals.

Watch Out For

  • Wordiness – Don’t write entire sentences in your presentation. Unless it is a quote, your bullet points should be short concise reminders of what you are going to talk about.
  • Face the audience. Don’t turn around and look at your screen when presenting.  If you have to see the screen, then use a pointer and shift focus to the screen or use Presenter View in PowerPoint to see the presentation while you talk.
  • Avoid Jargon – unless you are presenting to a room of experts on the subject, avoid using industry jargon or acronyms.
  • Time – Don’t try to cram 75 slides into 30 minutes. Estimate the time needed for the number of slides and remember to leave time for questions.
  • Brain Freeze – I write out my entire spoken presentation in the Notes section of the presentation. This also makes a good handout AFTER the presentation.  Never give your handout before the presentation, make them listen and pay attention to you.

PowerPoint Pointers

  • PowerPoint Designer – PowerPoint has a feature called PowerPoint Designer. There is also Design Ideas in Powerpoint on the Design Menu.  These tools might improve slides by automatically recommending design ideas for your PowerPoint slides.
  • Outlines in PowerPoint – You can open Word Outlines inside PowerPoint. If it is easier for you to compose in Word or if you want to create a presentation for a paper you have written in Word, you can open a Word Doc directly in PowerPoint.  Try it.
  • You may also find it easier to edit a presentation in PowerPoint Outline View. See View, Outline View from the PowerPoint Menus.
  • I always write out my entire spoken presentation and put it in the Note View of each slide. This makes it easy to create a presentation handout. Simply print out a Notes Pages and use as a presentation handout.
  • Keep in mind you can save a PowerPoint presentation (PPTX) as a PowerPoint Show (PPSX) or a video for alternate ways to view and share the presentation.

Using Color

  • Text color – If you projecting the presentation use light text on a dark background. For printed presentations use dark text on a light background.
  • Color for emphasis – Use color to PUNCH out and make a point.
  • Less is more – Remember to limit the number of colors and fonts in a presentation. Use a sans serif font and use no more than two or three different fonts.  Use color to set a mood, highlight or add emphasis or contrast.
  • Be careful when using background colors or patterns. They can be very distracting and make your presentation illegible.
  • Red and green are bad colors for colorblind people. Especially if using different colors for different data sets in a graph, use higher contrast colors so us colorblind folks can tell the difference.

 

Photos / Images

  • Be careful using photos in presentations. Unless the photo is directly related to your topic, the relationship can be lost.
  • When using photos, make sure you have permission to use the image. If you purchased the photo, read the restrictions on its use.  If you use Creative Commons images, make sure you provide proper attribution and/or copyright information.
  • Graphs always work better than tables of numbers. If you have a lot of numbers to explain, try to find a way to use a graph or graphic to explain your story.
  • Use lower resolution images in your presentation. If you use high-resolution images you will bog down your presentation.  Using a lot of images can bloat your file size and slow the performance of the program as it struggles to load and display huge files.  If you need high-resolution photos to print your presentation, create two versions of your presentation, one to display and one to print.  More is not better when it comes to image and photo sizes and resolutions.

Multimedia / Animation

  • Using sound – sound needs to be heard to be effective. Tiny laptop speakers are not going to work in a large auditorium.  If you use sound, make sure the audience can hear you.
  • The same rules apply to animations and video. They need to be large and loud so they can be effective.  Video also makes your presentation files big and slow.  A low powered laptop will have a hard time displaying a presentation and a video at the same time.  A low powered laptop or tablet might drop frames or stutter.  This makes your presentation look unprofessional.
  • Animating text and other elements is ok if it adds to the understanding of the slide. Don’t animate text for the sake of animation.  It is annoying.

 Slide Transitions

  • Keep slide transitions simple. Avoid using weird transitions like window panes or rotating screens.  They are unprofessional.
  • Avoid using sound transitions. A ding or beep with every new slide is ok for a single slide but will drive your audience crazy if it is used for every slide.
  • A good way to animate words on slides without actually animating is to use identical slides with one word or words changed. As you transition from slide to slide it will appear the changes are magically happening when really you are just advancing slides.  Be careful to make the slides identical or it will appear as the whole slide is sliding or shifting around.  That is disconcerting to watch.
  • I recommend using a simple “wipe up” transition. This sets your audience’s eyes for the next slide and it is simple and fast.  You might also consider using “wipe left “ or “wipe right” for topic transitions and “wipe up” for slide transitions.  I have used this successfully for many presentations.

 Font Sizes

  • Fonts need to be visible from the back of the room. A good rule of thumb is never to use any font smaller than 18 pt.  Depending on the size of the screen, 18 pt is generally legible from almost 20 feet away.  Make sure your fonts are at least 1 inch (projected)  tall for every 10 feet viewing distance.
  • If you need to fit more information on a slide, don’t make the font smaller, make the font NARROWER.
  • Sans Serif fonts are best for titles, Serif fonts are better for body text. That said, most presentations are almost entirely titles and should not have any body text.  But if you create handouts, you might use Serif fonts for better readability.
  • In general, title fonts should be 45-55 pt.
  • Remember, stick to one or two fonts for the entire presentation. Black on yellow is the highest contrast most readable color combination.  But, black and yellow is a “bumblebee” color scheme, so be careful.

 Presentation Do’s and Don’ts

  • Practice your presentation. Speak it out loud to yourself, don’t just play it through your head.  Talking is different than thinking.  You need to practice how you will phrase your words and the only way to do that is to say it out loud.
  • Don’t read off the slide. Your audience has already read the slide faster than you can say it and if you read the slide you will turn your back to the audience, big no-no.  Always face the audience, not the screen.
  • Use short bullet points and fill in detail with your words. Don’t write whole paragraphs in your bullets.
  • Always test your technology BEFORE the presentation. You don’t want any issues when it is time to present.

Wrap It Up

  • Before you present, check ALL your spelling and grammar. Make sure the client’s name and logo are correct if you are presenting to a prospect or client.
  • Is your presentation clear, consistent and logical? Do you say one thing on one slide and something contradictory on another?
  • Keep it simple. Did you meet your goals for the presentation?  Did you successfully communicate your ideas and did the audience understand?  If they did, congratulations you gave a good presentation.
  • Leave time for questions at the end in case someone didn’t understand a part of your presentation.
  • Don’t forget copyright issues, respect other’s work and give credit where it is due and attribution if required.

 Take the PowerPoint Quiz – Learn PowerPoint

Take some time to learn how to use the PowerPoint program. Sharpen your application knowledge, it will help you in the long run. Do you know these PowerPoint features?

  • Master slides
  • Slide and element animation
  • Slide Sorter
  • Outline View
  • Grouping
  • Notes page / Handouts
  • Nudge and guides
  • Inserting pictures and graphs
  • Design Ideas
  • Timing and transitions
  • PPS files
  • Presenter View

PowerPoint can be a great tool if you use it right.  If you have any other PowerPoint tips, please share them in the comments.  Happy Presenting!

Advance2000 IT Strategy Assessment

Back to Basics: How to Write a Company Email Policy

Introduction

Every company needs an email policy.  This is to protect employees as well as the firm.

The purpose of an email policy is to set proper expectations with your employees.  What are the rules and guidelines regarding email and what happens if you ignore the rules?

The email policy should be written and reviewed with the employee at the time of employment.  You can add a place for an employee signature if required.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, any legal policy you implement at your company should be reviewed and signed off by your legal team.  The following are merely guidelines and sample text to help you create your own email policy.

Typical Sections included in an Email Policy

  • Introduction
  • Email Ownership and Privacy
  • Email Usage Guidelines
  • Email Misuse and Abuse
  • Email Retention and Backup
  • Personal Use of email / Opinions / Personal Views
  • Security / Trade Secrets / Personal Information
  • Questions / Who to ask
  • Signature line and Date

Introduction

The introduction should state the purpose and reason for having and enforcing an email policy.  It should state the business purpose of email and explain the need for an email policy.

SAMPLE TEXT

[COMPANY] Email Policy [version or date]

Date

[COMPANY] provides email to all authorized employees. email is a business tool to help [COMPANY] employees serve our customers, communicate with vendors, streamline internal communications and reduce unnecessary paperwork. The email system is intended primarily for business purposes. This email policy outlines the acceptable use of business email for {COMPANY].

Email Ownership and Privacy

This section explains the Company owns the email and email systems.  The company can access email for ANY reason and the employee has NO expectation of privacy.  Email is a company owned tool (like your desk and PC) and the employer can access any email at any time for any reason.

Employees must realize email is not private.  If required, email access can be cut off and all email sent and received may be restricted for any reason.  This is very important in the case of harassment accusations or lawsuits.

SAMPLE TEXT

All communications and information transmitted, received, or archived in [COMPANY]’s computer system belongs to the company. Management has the right to access and disclose all employee email messages transmitted or received via the organization’s computer system. [COMPANY] may exercise its legal right to monitor employees’ email activity. Regarding email, employees should have no expectation of privacy. Be aware management may access and monitor email at any time, for any reason, with or without prior notice.

Email Usage Guidelines

This section outlines the basic use and guidelines for company email.  It discusses email etiquette and stresses the business use of email.  It should remind employees to abide by all corporate standards including logos, signatures, and copyrights. You should warn about the use of CC and BCC and inadvertently sharing email addresses in a group email.  You should caution against using inappropriate language and tone and what to do if you receive an email that does not conform to these guidelines.  Employees should be told sending confidential or sensitive information over email is not secure.  They should never include user names, passwords or other client or personal information in an email.

SAMPLE TEXT

Exercise sound judgment and common sense when sending email messages. Client-related messages should be carefully guarded and protected, like any other written materials. You must also abide by copyright laws, ethics rules and other applicable laws. Exercise caution when sending blind carbon copies (BCC) and carbon copies (CC) to ensure you don’t violate addressees’ privacy by inadvertently sharing email address information.  

Email usage must conform to [COMPANY]’s harassment and discrimination policies. Messages containing defamatory, obscene, menacing, threatening, offensive, harassing, or otherwise objectionable and/or inappropriate statements and/or messages that disclose personal information without authorization will not be tolerated. If you receive this type of prohibited, unsolicited message, do not forward it. Notify your supervisor, the HR department, and the Director of Information Technology about the message. Handle the message as instructed by management.

Email Misuse and Abuse

Email should not be used for frivolous purposes.  Company email should not be used to share jokes or other inappropriate or suggestive content (pornography).  Also, include a warning about sending firm-wide (ALL STAFF) email.  I have seen firm-wide email regarding after-hour parties/outings and lost and found items sent using ALL STAFF distribution lists.  This is not a good use of the company’s resources and should be avoided.

SAMPLE TEXT

E-mail messages should be treated as formal business documents, written in accordance with [COMPANY]’s correspondence guidelines. E-mail creates a permanent and documented communication and must not be treated casually.

Employees are prohibited from sending jokes, rumors, gossip, or unsubstantiated opinions via email. These communications, which often contain objectionable material, are easily misconstrued when communicated electronically. Employees should not waste [COMPANY]’s computer resources or colleagues’ time.

Send email messages and copies only to those with a legitimate need to read your message. Chain messages, jokes and large graphics should be deleted, not forwarded, as they can overload the system.  Use Reply All ONLY when you need to reply to everyone on the email thread. Sending reply email with just the word “Thanks” or “Thank You”, especially to an entire group (Reply All) is courteous but usually not necessary.  

Employees are prohibited from sending firm-wide email messages to All Staff without prior authorization and this practice is limited to only necessary correspondence. In addition, employees are prohibited from requesting replies to firm-wide email without prior authorization. Sending firm-wide email is generally discouraged.

Misuse and/or abuse of [COMPANY]’s electronic assets (wasting productive time online, copying or downloading copyrighted materials, visiting inappropriate sites, sending inappropriate/abusive email messages, etc.) will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Please address any questions or concerns regarding firm-wide email to the Director of IT or the Director of HR.

Email retention and backup

Email should be retained according to the company’s Document Management guidelines and legal requirements.  Your policy should explain the difference between “record” email and “non-record” email, email that should be saved versus email that can be discarded. In this section, you can also explain the means and limits of email backup.  Depending on your legal requirements and the type of email, you need clear standards explained for saving and deleting email.

Many companies deliberately delete non-record email.  When email is backed up, depending on your backup system, you may not have the ability to retrieve individual emails for each account.  Employees need to understand the limits of the email backup and retrieval and plan accordingly.

SAMPLE TEXT

All email messages (whether in electronic form or printed) with an ongoing legal, compliance, business, or project value (considered a “business record”) must be retained in accordance with the company’s records management policies and applicable retention schedules. Project related email, particularly critical project email, such as milestone progress reviews and approvals and scope changes must be filed using the [name of email archiving or filing software’s] filing system.

 (See the most recent Records Retention Policy for further information)

 It is the responsibility of every email user to maintain email records. It is the responsibility of each user to retain email records (defined as any email having an ongoing legal, compliance, business, operational, project or historical value) like all other records in accordance with the company’s retention policies.

 Project electronic files are regularly backed up and retrievable. Email accounts are not typically permanently backed up or retrievable except in the case of disaster recovery. For this reason, it is essential all important project-related email is transferred to the network project folders on a regular basis using the [name of email filing software] program.

 To maximize the operating efficiency of the company’s email system and to minimize the storage costs associated with retaining large volumes of unnecessary email, every employee has a limited amount of email storage in their email account. Requests for additional space will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Keep your email storage cleaned out and up to date. [describe the email storage limits if any]

 Email will be backed up daily for disaster recovery purposes only and will thereafter be retained for [X] months. The company is not able to restore individual email messages. If you are unable to access your email account for more than 14 days, please contact IT or HR to make arrangements for your email account during your absence.

 All copies of non-record email (those with no ongoing legal, compliance, business, operational, project or historical value) can be deleted and paper printouts of such messages disposed of when no longer needed.

 Non-record email messages include, but are not limited to, administrative email (such as an invitation to the company holiday party or a meeting notice); they do not need to be retained as a company record, according to the records retention schedule. Such messages only need to be kept if they are needed to conduct business. Failure to dispose of such messages wastes valuable company computer resources and employee time. However, if you would retain the message if it had been sent in paper form, then you should retain record copies of the email transmission. Email can be archived electronically using [email archive software]. Please see IT for instructions on archiving email.

 You should, unless otherwise directed:

  1. Purge drafts and non-record email messages immediately when no longer needed.
  2. Purge convenience or reference email copies immediately when no longer needed.
  3. Purge duplicate email immediately when no longer needed.

Personal use of email / Opinions / Personal Views / Solicitation

Employees will unavoidably use their company email for personal reasons.  While almost everyone has a personal email account, inevitably there will be an intermingling of personal email and work email.  Employees corresponding to each other may by default use the company email rather than a personal email.  They may not even know each other’s personal email address.

Recognizing this will happen, you should include language in your email policy to describe the acceptable personal use of company email.  If it is 100% prohibited, you should say that.

SAMPLE TEXT

[COMPANY]’s electronic mail service is reserved primarily for business use. All users should consider this in their decision to use the firm’s email services for personal purposes.

Employees may use [COMPANY]’s email service for incidental personal reasons with the following guidelines:

  1. Communication with non-business contacts is permitted but should be minimized during business hours.

Employees also are free to correspond during the lunch hour and other break times. Personal email should not interfere with the email user’s employment or other obligations and responsibilities to the firm.

  1. Personal email communication that exceeds the limits outlined above is prohibited unless justified by family emergency or otherwise specifically authorized by [COMPANY]’s Human Resources Director. Personal email should not directly or indirectly interfere with the firm’s operation of computing facilities or electronic mail services or burden the firm with noticeable additional cost.
  2. The use of [COMPANY]’s email system to solicit for any purpose, campaign for a political candidate, espouse political views, promote a religious cause, and/or advertise the sale of merchandise is strictly prohibited.
  3. Personal Email usage must also conform to [COMPANY]’s harassment and discrimination policies.
  4. Company email should be used to sign up for online training or when creating accounts or downloading information that requires an email address AND is company or business related.

Security / Trade Secrets / Personal information / Viruses

This section discusses email security.  Users are required to use secure passwords and change their password often.  Include a warning about sending personal information or trade secrets via email.  Email (unless encrypted) is not secure. Employees should know any sent email can be intercepted or read.  Phone and snail mail are both more secure than email.  Finally, warn employees about opening email they do not recognize or are not expecting.  Most email systems have SPAM and virus protection but occasionally something will slip through security.  Employees need to think before opening email and if they suspect an email, they need to know what to do with it and who to notify.

SAMPLE TEXT

Email passwords are the property of [COMPANY]. Employees are required to provide the Director of Information Technology with current passwords upon request. Only authorized personnel are permitted to access another employee’s email without consent. Misuse of passwords, the sharing of passwords with non-employees, and/or the unauthorized access of another employee’s password or mailbox for any reason will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.  You should change your password at least 4 times a year (or according to company policy) and use strong passwords which include upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.  Do not write passwords down, keep them secure.  

Security is difficult if not impossible to achieve in the electronic age. Confidential or personal information should never be sent via email understanding it can be intercepted. This includes the transmission of client information, Social Security numbers, employee health records, proprietary data and trade secrets, or other confidential material. When sending sensitive material (or any message, for that matter), employees should use extreme caution to ensure the intended recipient’s email address is correct.  Email is not secure, if you have secure information that needs to be transmitted, see IT for alternate ways to secure your communications.

Be careful when opening email with attachments.  While [Company] has email SPAM and virus filtering, there is a possibility a malicious link or new exploit can bypass our system.  If you receive strange messages or unexpected email from someone, use caution and common sense before opening.  When in doubt, contact the sender to verify the email is legitimate and safe.  If you accidentally open an unknown file or click on an unsafe link, notify IT as soon as possible and they can determine if it was safe.

Questions / Who to ask / Signature line and date

Finally, let staff know who to contact if they have questions or concerns.  When reviewing this policy with a new employee or introducing an email policy for the first time, you can include a signature line to state the employee has received and read the email policy.

SAMPLE TEXT

If you have any questions about the above policies, please address them to the Director of Information Technology or Human Resources Director.

I [Employee Name] have received and read [Company]’ Email Policy [version or dated]

_________________________ Signature

_____________ Date

 

I hope this article has convinced you every company needs an email policy.  If you need help writing your company’s email policy, click here and we can get you started.