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Policy-based management is an administrative approach that is used to simplify the management of a given endeavor by establishing policies to deal with situations that are likely to occur. Policies are operating rules that can be referred to as a means of maintaining order, security, consistency, or other ways of successfully furthering a goal or mission. For example, a town council might have in place a policy against hiring the relatives of council members for civic positions. Then, each time that situation arose, council members could refer to the policy rather than deciding on the merits of individual cases. In the computing world, policy-based management is used as an administrative tool throughout an enterprise or a network, or on workstations that have multiple users. Policy-based management includes policy-based network management, the use of delineated policies to control access to and priorities for the use of resources. Policy-based management may be used in systems management, or the creation and operation of an efficient computing environment.
Policy-based management of a multi-user workstation typically includes setting individual policies for such things as access to files or applications, various levels of access (such as "read-only" permission, or permission to update or delete files), the appearance and makeup of individual users' desktops, and so on. Specific user settings are activated when that person logs in to the computer. There are a number of software packages available to automate some elements of policy-based management. In general, the way these work is as follows: business policies are input to the products, and the software communicates to network hardware how to support those policies.
Read more about security policies in our Special Report on Policies in the Workplace