Brian C. Berry, Director, Technology Consulting

We are witnessing a remarkable increase in the number and variety of portable devices available to consumers. These devices have fundamentally re-defined the concept of what a computer can do, what it can offer us and how it can serve our continuing drive to maximize the productivity of every waking moment. They have become enormously popular; according to a report published by Cisco earlier this year, there will be more mobile devices than people on Earth by the end of 2020.

But why do your employees bring their many devices to work? It’s more than the simply sleek hardware. It’s also for the Consumer Cloud Services which accompany their devices, typically email or file storage services. They help employees be hyper-productive, access company data from anywhere, store personal and company data and help them share data with colleagues. “Bring Your Own Device” (known today as BYOD) is a problem only if you have employees who want to be more productive. 

The overall effect of BYOD has been a massive democratization of technology. Business users with very limited technical skills find their personal devices indispensable. Executives are excited to demonstrate products or services with mobile technology – bringing tablets into a customer discussion to enhance the conversation. Technology executives are not as excited.  Whereas before their departments acted as a gateway for all hardware purchases made by an organization (servers, computers, telephones, etc.), technology leaders are now faced with an alarming loss of control. Technologists love standardization, policies and efficiencies, not variety. Here is what they worry about:

Portable Devices Are…Portable

Laptops are easier to carry than desktops (obviously), easier to transport, easier to lose and easier to steal.  Smartphones and tablets are left behind at an alarming rate, with personal and corporate data saved on them.

Consumers Don’t Think Security First

Essential security measures are not a priority for consumer devices. You may be alarmed to learn that providers of consumer cloud services (email, file storage) claim some rights to any content they store.  Consumer targeted services are not created with the security needs of the enterprise in mind.

The Weakest Link

Mobile devices are the weakest link in a company’s network security. Personal devices which are connected to the corporate environment — be they smartphones, tablets or PCs — have access to sensitive corporate and customer data. Because personal devices are not procured by IT, the ability to ensure that the devices comply with corporate security standards is limited.

Big Data Has Changed the Game

Smartphones and tablets are constantly broadcasting data: location data, user preferences, web clicks, application downloads and usage, audio and video streams, search terms and more. The internet knows a lot about you. Cyber-criminals use the enormous data collected by social media and data sharing services to entice us with seemingly innocent, personalized emails which are infected with malicious software. The financial impact of a security breach, especially when the compromised data is personal data, presents a significant risk to every company on the planet.

Yet, despite these concerns, more and more personal devices are brought to work. Organizations that resist this trend risk alienating the next generation of productive employees. Some call them Digital Natives or the Collaboration Generation, and they are extremely comfortable sharing information online with colleagues and friends.  Dismiss them at your peril.

So What Should You Do?

Don’t panic but don’t wait either. Get to work on these essential steps:

Identify the Right Mobile Device Management Solution

First, identify the devices your IT team is willing to support. Then, identify the right Mobile Device Management solution to secure those devices. 

Mobile Device Management software provides IT organizations with the capability to manage a broad variety of devices which are only occasionally connected to the corporate network. They are capable of preventing data loss and/or data theft in the event that a device becomes compromised.  The best ones are capable of providing a “sandbox” effect in a tablet or smartphone, essentially preventing malware from gaining access to location, audio and video services of the device and also segmenting it from corporate data. 

Microsoft’s Windows Intune is one such solution which provides management with a wide range of devices (PCs, tablets and phones) on a wide range of operating systems, including Windows Phone, Blackberry, Android and iOS (Mac).

Deliver Secure Productivity Tools to your Employees

Savvy users find ways to get things done. If comparable enterprise-grade cloud services are not available, you may not like how they get it done. Corporate data belongs in a corporate managed repository. This includes documents, correspondence, video conferencing etc. If there is no company cloud, what they use instead is anybody’s guess.

Cloud services such as Microsoft’s Office 365 provide enterprise security and best in-class file storage, email, and communication and collaboration services. When paired with Windows Phone 8, Office 365 stands out as a leader in corporate cloud services. Users accustomed to Windows on their PC will not miss a beat.

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