The Tsunami that is BYOD

The number of smartphones, tablets and Android devices in South Africa is believed to have more than doubled between September 2010 and 2011, and it continues to grow.

July 9, 2012

By William Hardie, Executive Head of Enterprise Mobility of Vox Telecom

The number of smartphones, tablets and Android devices in South Africa is believed to have more than doubled between September 2010 and 2011, and it continues to grow.

“Owners of these devices are already using them at work, with or without corporate support, to make work-related phone calls, to check e-mails and to browse the intranet or internet for research,” says William Hardie, Executive Head of Vox Telecom’s Enterprise Mobility Division. As employees gain the ability to access, send, receive and store large amounts of sensitive data, the door is opened to a variety of security threats, including IT policy violations and a myriad of services, platforms and applications that can threaten existing technology within the company.

As the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace is only going to increase over time, companies need to change their perception and view this as a lucrative opportunity, rather than a threat.

A recent study by IDC has shown that of organisations that allow employees to use personal mobile devices for work, 65% report greater productivity, driving down the total cost of ownership for mobile initiatives. Mobile customer relationship management, in turn, provides a direct link to better customer service and grants staff real-time access to critical business data. It also goes a long way in attracting top young talent, who have a deep affinity for mobile computing.

Whereas banning the devices can restrict and alienate workers, encouraging the use thereof allows employees to use technology they are already familiar with to attract, liaise with and serve customers in a fast, efficient manner. Informed decisions can be made easily, without waiting to get back to a laptop or the office. Costs and geographic barriers are decreased.

But in order to harvest the benefits and minimise the risks, a mobile management strategy, driven from the top down, is essential. Compared to PCs, devices can easily to be lost or stolen, and along with all the data contained within. This presents a difficult challenge for IT managers, who are aware of the dangers, but often lack solutions.

In a nutshell, mobile device management needs to:

Strike a balance between personal and work data

It is important to find a solution that allows employees to maintain their privacy, without compromising the security of the company. Technology can create a virtual sandbox that segregates enterprise and personal data. Users must type in a password to access corporate data, but can access personal data (such as photos/videos) without authentication.

Integrate a wide variety of platforms

When dealing with a variety of devices, one accesses a variety of operating systems – everything from iOS and Android through to Blackberry and Windows Mobile. If these platforms cannot integrate successfully, it not only hampers productivity but can lead to security threats. A unified mobile management platform provides all the technology, processes and procedures to manage application and data in a secure, well-governed manner.

Add remote wipe for lost devices

The ability to remotely wipe lost devices and strict inventory management should be considered the bare minimum of mobile security. Just because a company does not own an employee’s device, does not mean it should not be treated as a company asset.

Manage telecommunication expenses

Employee mobility should be supported, but companies should not pick up the tab for non-work related activities. Although sending and receiving emails using corporate bandwidth is fine, downloading online games and videos should be restricted the same way that IT has done with PCs over the years.

Mobile Device Management has moved beyond being a nice-to-have and become a part of our everyday working life. Depending on whether you take control or not, the device on your employee’s desk will either be used against you or to your advantage: but ignoring it is sure to be to your detriment.