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09-September-2014

What Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) means for Business

Not too long ago, your desktop PC was the only technology used to undertake all your office work and if you were required to do some work at home, you would transfer all your files onto a USB key, today however, having multiple screens or devices is de rigueur.

Recent research by Forrester Research in the United States regarding the use of cloud services and mobile computing, revealed some surprising facts:

  • More than 50% of information workers use 3 or more computing devices for work
  • Portable computing devices are the most popular formats. In fact, more than 25% of devices used are smartphones and tablets
  • Two-thirds of US online adults are using at least one form of a broad spectrum  of personal cloud services (including calendars, file sharing and storage)

But perhaps one of the scarier facts to come out of the research was this: workers mix work and personal use on 60% of the PCs and mobile devices they use. Furthermore, only 14% of devices are used strictly for work and 26% for personal use only. The potential ramifications for your business are huge.

Business Implications of BYOD

If you are a business owner, or work in IT risk mitigation, there are a few aspects – negative and positive – you may wish to consider as regards your business and BYOD practices. Here are just a few:

Hidden Costs

As time marches on, it is increasingly likely that current and future employees will wish to utilise their own mobile devices at work, rather than using one you provide. Whilst this may seem a financial boon to your business; given you don’t need to provide them with a company asset, there is a good chance that it will actually end up costing your business to some extent. This is primarily in the form of data breaches and network security issues.

Network Security

Information is one of your biggest assets and unfortunately, having BYOD on your network poses a risk to this data security. A recent study by Mobilisafe found:

  • SMBs are exposed to severe vulnerabilities from the increasing levels of mobile devices used to access company networks and download company data
  • Due to the speed of platform updates, manufacturer based platform tweaks and app updates, IT managers within SMBs cannot begin to keep up with the rate of discovery of severe vulnerabilities these devices bring to a business network
  • Unlike risk mitigation strategies implemented for servers, PCs and laptops, IT departments as a generalisation, currently lack a standardised approach to how to mitigate risks from different types of mobile devices

Furthermore, security firm Zscaler ThreatLabZ found that the rush to develop the next big mobile App is so great, that many production houses are forgetting to lock down the privacy component of their app. In one instance they found:

A few months back we were looking at some iOS apps that would ask you for your password to popular services like Google Docs, and all of those authentication credentials were just stored in clear text. So anybody who got a backup of your phone could go through that in plain text.

It is worth noting, it is not just sinister activities such as hacking which pose a risk for you. In fact more vanilla things such as employees losing their work phone/tablet also put your data is at risk.

Increased Flexibility

It is important to note, it is not all doom and gloom for organisations implementing BYOD. In fact, when combined with cloud services such as cloud storage or when employees use document sharing platforms, then their productivity and their flexibility (in where they can work from) will increase. This in turn leads to increased company loyalty from your employees.

Protecting your Business

Despite the fact there are large risks with BYOD, there are undeniable advantages which relate to the practice, and furthermore, there is an inevitable march towards it becoming the norm. As with all new business practices and emerging technologies, preparation is the key to successful implementation. A few things to consider include:

  • Implement a robust BYOD IT policy
  • Enable remote device wipe technology on all devices
  • Determine what operating systems and/or platforms your workplace is willing to accept – this helps the IT department to manage emergent threats
  • Enforce periodic checking to monitor use of the device to detect misuse, hacking or malware
  • Set guidelines and procedures for how the device connects to the company’s network
  • Install and maintain anti-virus software
  • Implement data encryption on the device

At the end of the day, technology and its use is evolving rapidly. If you are unsure of what needs to be done, what your rights are or who best to ask, contact our offices and let one of our experts in the area of BYOD assist you.

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