We live in a mobile world. People use their smartphones and tablets every waking hour – on the bus to work, at the beach, and in the office. And we’re not only using these devices to make calls and communicate, but to shop, organise our lives and for entertainment and education. As we’re now online almost constantly, the lines between our personal and work lives are becoming blurred and increasing numbers of us use our private mobile devices to do our jobs.
Changing how we do business
This mobility is changing how companies of all sizes do business and it is SMBs that stand to benefit most. By using smartphones and wireless devices, workers can be more mobile than ever before and work from home or wherever there may be an internet connection. In fact, some 13% of global information workers now use a tablet for work and IT research company Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2017 half of all employers will require their staff to supply their own devices, based on a survey of global CIOs. This Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend can help small businesses eliminate overheads and reduces service and data costs. But when staff are bringing in mobile devices, they are also bringing many unknown elements into your IT environment and these have to be managed.
What is mobile device management?
This process is called Mobile Device Management (MDM) and involves integrating mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops into the IT environment and managing and monitoring them. Without MDM solutions in place, you’re putting yourself at risk of security breaches and data leakage, not to mention malware and viruses, all of which could end up costing you money and even your business’s reputation.
A good MDM solution will ensure that your staff have the business software they need on their devices while keeping their own personal settings and data separate and unaffected. When managing your mobile devices, you can also check that users haven’t installed non-authorised software or apps that could put your business at risk.
The latest figures show that only 37 percent of SMBs have a Mobile Device Management plan in place, so don’t be one of those yet to adopt one. Here are five basic practices that can keep you safe as your workforce becomes ever more mobile.
Insist on anti-malware
When your staff are using their own devices for work or logging into your networks, it is your responsibility as a business owner to make sure they install the latest anti-malware software and that it is always updated.
Then insist on data encryption
Many mobile devices in the office access networks wirelessly, and these communications can be easy to intercept. Encryption can keep you safe. If your company works with sensitive data, you should probably ban workers from using devices that cannot be encrypted.
Enforce the use of strong passwords
With MDM, as with all areas of IT, strong passwords are a must. This means longer passwords that mix numbers with upper and lower case letters. If you are serious about security, you may want to incorporate a device lock that is triggered after a set number of failed login attempts.
Perform regular audits of security
When dealing with multiple devices there is always a danger of security holes. Make sure there are regular audits so you can find weak spots and plug them before they are breached. It is often worth getting an expert service provider to do this for you. This is an area of IT that changes all the time so you need to keep abreast of what’s happening to stay properly safe.
Create a virtual environment
Of course, when your staff are using their own devices for work, there is only so far you can go in managing their data. After all, you may be dealing with staff who are in different parts of the country or even overseas. As an employer, you’ll also have very different expectations about the type of restrictions that can be applied to private devices. For ultimate control over the mobile devices your staff are using, it is worth looking into creating a virtual work environment to which everyone has to log in.
There are various software packages now being offered that allow you a simplified, efficient way to view and manage all devices from a central admin console. After this is set up, your staff can simply enrol their devices and once authenticated they’ll be subject to your predefined appropriate restrictions and security. Such software also allows you to manage mobile devices more easily and improve collaboration among your staff, wherever they may be.