Rise in employees working from home presents risks to company information

Nearly half of South African workers now work from home or a third place (neither home nor office).

July 19, 2012

Nearly half of South African workers now work from home or a third place (neither home nor office). As a result, it is becoming increasingly critical for businesses to incorporate effective data protection and storage solutions as an increasingly mobile workforce presents a number of organisational risks, including the loss or theft of sensitive company information.

According to a survey conducted by Regus, 49% of South African workers are working from home or an alternative location to the office for half a week or more.

Guy Kimble, Managing Director of Metrofile Records Management – a group company of JSE-listed Metrofile Holdings Limited – says business owners need to realise that their critical and often sensitive company information is no longer stored in a secure vault but is travelling with their employees where ever they go. “Technical advancements have made it even easier for unauthorised parties to access encrypted data from stolen or lost laptops and mobile devices.”

Kimble adds that negligence of employees forgetting to backup their data to the company server or revealing their passwords to unauthorised personnel is also an increasing problem. “In the event of a laptop being lost or stolen employees often forget what sensitive information was stored on the device, resulting in a lack of control of the location of confidential company information.”

Businesses face a number of consequences when mobile devices containing company information is lost or stolen, says Kimble. “Not only can the company suffer a loss of corporate reputation and intellectual property but there are the financial costs of replacing the device itself and operational expenses of getting the device functional as well as repopulating and recovering the data.”

Kimble advises that some of the most common manners in which critical company data is lost include, among others, the loss or theft of the physical device, power failures, faulty hardware, viruses and natural disasters. “If effective backup systems are not implemented, reconstituting the data can be time consuming and labour intensive, if possible at all.”

According to Kimble the best way to mitigate the risk of loss of sensitive company information is to enforce a strict corporate policy to govern access and rules regarding data use. “Enforce a backup strategy that is easy for employees to understand and use.”

Kimble says smaller businesses should implement a backup strategy that incorporates automated and intelligent backups that dictate what files to back up when. “Mobility backup systems backup employees’ desktop and laptop data to an online data centre which is secure at all times.”

“Larger organisations should look at enterprise solutions that backup data directly to the company’s server and mirror the data to a reputable data protection business,” says Kimble.

The growing trend of a mobile workforce coupled with the increase in digital company data has made an effective data protection and backup system critical to organisational survival and should be a part of every businesses’ risk management strategy, concluded Kimble.