By Omer Faiyaz, CEO of Remo Software
Late last year, industry analyst Gartner identified the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon as a top trend for 2014, predicting that the proliferation of user-owned devices in the workplace would increasingly cause IT headaches for businesses as they struggle to control data access and protect assets. Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are increasingly moving toward the cloud and employing mobile workforces that rely on personal devices to conduct company business.
While mobile technologies hold great promise as a productivity enhancer, they can also pose a significant risk to network and data security if companies fail to manage their use proactively. This is particularly true for smaller companies or startups without a dedicated IT support team. Here are the top three threats – and how SMBs can mitigate the risks.
1. Lack of a coherent maintenance strategy.
In larger companies, the IT team takes ownership of critical functions like providing approved applications, deploying upgrades and patches across the organization and conducting data backups and syncing. These functions are just as important for SMBs, but too often, no one is in charge of making sure maintenance best practices are defined and executed.
Fortunately, the solution is fairly straightforward: SMB leaders need to either take on the role of IT manager themselves or delegate it to a trusted employee. Software tools are available on the market now that can make handling routine backups, data syncing and upgrades quick and easy.
2. No BYOD policy.
The BYOD trend shows no signs of abating, so employers of all sizes need to find a way to manage the security and data risks. In addition to the possibility that data stored on an employee-owned device could fall into the wrong hands or be destroyed by malware introduced by an unauthorized download, BYOD also creates the risk that important information could be stored in silos accessible only to the device owner.
The remedy is a standard approach, a BYOD policy that establishes simple rules to ensure that data storage, app downloads and data access are managed effectively. Creating a policy that outlines what employees should do to protect their devices (such as using strong passwords), how they can avoid malware and best practices for managing company data can go a long way toward ensuring that employees work with the management team to keep data and devices safe.
3. Lost devices with company data.
When employees use smartphones, tablets and laptops to conduct business on the go, there’s always the possibility that the device could be misplaced or stolen. And if the device contains sensitive company information such as customer data, financial statements or account information, that could spell big trouble for a small business.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to address this possibility: a software solution that enables the device owner or company to lock down and/or wipe data from the device remotely. Remote device control capabilities can also enable employers to remove downloaded company productivity apps that let users access sensitive information.
The BYOD trend can theoretically be a net benefit to startups and smaller companies. It can improve employee satisfaction and efficiency by enabling them to use the devices they prefer. It can also extend staff accessibility, making any location with Internet service a field office.
But to fully leverage the advantages, SMBs must find a way to address the very real risks involved in BYOD. Designating a go-to person for routine maintenance like upgrades, backups and data syncing is imperative. It’s also important to provide employees with understandable policies so they’ll know what’s expected of them. Remote device control capabilities are also a must. SMB leaders who address these issues will be well on their way to success in the BYOD era.
Omer Faiyaz is the founder of Remo Software, which specializes in mobile device management for home users. Omer is an expert in analyzing and developing technology that makes life easier for consumers by keeping them connected, organized and efficient.