This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Max Silber, executive director of mobility, MetTel
Mobile devices in the workforce are nothing new – since the invasion of Palm Pilots and Blackberry phones in the late 1990s, these devices have become as common in a cubicle or office as a desk phone and computer monitor.
What wasn’t expected at the dawn of the mobile era was the extent to which users would be able to access data from their devices. Gone are the days of simple calls, texts and business emails, as cell phones and tablets are now filled with applications for social media, banks and healthcare as well as personal email accounts.
As with almost all new trends, the industry must adapt to keep up, especially when it comes to the matter of private business documents living on the same device as unsecure apps. While most companies worry about a security breach coming from outside of their organization, many don’t realize that mobile devices allow hackers a direct connection to inside information.
The Problem: Personal Communication Device vs. Corporate Tool
Businesses that allow employees to use mobile devices are sure to discover that additional accessibility brings increased value. Employees who can email while travelling and access documents during a meeting can also provide better service for their team and clients. A quick check through corporate email on the train ride into work in the morning can ensure that any immediate needs are addressed the minute the employee walks through the door, cutting down response time to clients and showcasing better service.
To allow for this increased amount of accessibility from the workforce, many business have been adopting BYOD policies. More and more companies are allowing employees to use their own mobile phone or tablet to access sensitive business collateral such as documents and emails. While BYOD allows for the employees to increase their productivity through this access, what it does not allow for is the business to have much, if any, control over what is on the device.
These employees are using the same phones to text friends, send personal emails and access personal social media accounts through applications that cannot be secured by the business. With the tap of a finger, a classified document could be sent to the wrong person without the business knowing.
Due to the benefits of anywhere, anytime access, it’s clear that businesses should allow employees to access the information through a mobile device. However, there is a different option available than just a BYOD policy – providing employees with corporate liable devices.
The Solution: BYOD vs. Corporate Liable Devices
A recent Supreme Court decision unanimously ruled that police must acquire a warrant to search mobile devices. This means that businesses who promote a BYOD program cannot retrieve data from an employee’s device without permission, or else they face possible legal implications. If the business does not receive permission from employees to instate mobile device management (MDM) on their personal device, the business loses all control of information stored on the device.
Some BYOD policies are robust enough that businesses are able to actively control access to business information and provide the ability to remotely wipe critical data should the phone be lost or stolen. For example, Microsoft recently announced a MDM offering through Office 365. Through this offering, businesses are able to securely deliver information and data through the Microsoft Office Suite to mobile devices. However, other programs outside of the Microsoft Suite are not covered, and therefore cannot be secured.
Another aspect of BYOD to take into consideration is issues that may arise outside of just accessing information from the device. Should it be broken, lost or stolen, the responsibility rests on the employee to deal with the service provider and replace the device. This results in lost time and productivity for that employee, and therefore the business.
With corporate liable devices, businesses are able to control and manage all information on employees’ mobile devices by ensuring MDM is on all devices. If a device is lost or stolen, the business can track it down or remotely wipe all sensitive data because it owns the device.
Should a corporate liable device be broken, lost or stolen, it rests on the business to deal with the issue. Businesses hold bigger names, and therefore have more leveraging power to replace the device faster. Another benefit is that businesses can use economies of scale to a cost advantage, as more devices on the plan mean a better rate with the service providers.
As each business’ needs differ, it’s important to consider both options – BYOD and corporate liable devices – before moving forward with a plan. Be sure to take into account cost, ease of execution, service provider plans and device support. Mobile device use is predicted to continue to rise in the business world, making it more important than ever to put a plan into place. To best determine what strategy your business should move forward with, ask yourself the following questions regarding your business’ end goals: Do I want to save money? Ensure security? Provide flexibility to end users? With these answers you are on the right path to the best choice for your business.