A Brief Introduction to ToS and AUP Documents
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You have probably encountered Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policies as a customer of various businesses. Guess what? As a web host, you need one of each for your own business. This article explains what they are, why you need them, and gives you some hints as to what they should include.
Let's start by defining our terms. A Terms of Service and an Acceptable Use Policy are not the same thing, though the names of the two documents are often bandied about as if they are. While they are both legal (and legally binding) documents, they have two entirely different purposes.
The Terms of Service, as you might guess from the name, describes the terms under which you provide your service to your customers. It often covers the regular monetary end of things, such as fees and payment schedules, but it covers many other points as well. Do you provide any kind of warranty or guarantee as to your network's performance? Do you provide back up for your customers' data? If so, what kind and how frequently? What is your refund policy? All of these points and more should be included in your Terms of Service document.
You would think after including all of those details in your Terms of Service document, there isn't anything left to include in the Acceptable Use Policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. An Acceptable Use Policy tells your customers what kinds of behavior you will and will not allow. This is where you make it clear that you will not put up with conduct such as spamming, storing or distributing wavez, or other illegal or unethical behavior. You can also forbid things that are technically not illegal but you would rather not have to deal with, such as pornography (if, for instance, you don't want porn on your system). An Acceptable Use Policy also indicates the penalties for engaging in this kind of behavior, such as fines, warnings, and/or outright termination of service.
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