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BYOD – Creating A Balance Between Flexibility And Safety

Personal mobile devices and external data access promotes flexibility and improves employee productivity. However, it opens up the possibility of security breaches.

Simple things like forgetting to log out or losing a device can spell disaster to any business. But appropriate security policies and mobile content management software help businesses to mitigate the risks without hindering employee productivity.

BYOD (bring your own device) trend toward the use of employee-owned devices is sweeping the world by storm. Higher internet speeds, widespread cloud adoption and the increasing number of mainstream software packages going mobile, bring up the functionality of mobile devices at par with desktop computers. Most text documents and spreadsheets can now be edited on a mobile device without any limitation. And custom-built apps mobilize business tools that were previously available only within the office.

“BYOD strategy is the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades,” said David Willis, VP of the flagman research centre Gartner in a statement published on the company’s website. “The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs.”

According to Gartner’s predictions, by 2017, half of employees will require staff to use their own devices for work purposes in a bid to increase productivity, employee satisfaction and provide a flexible working environment.

The benefits of BYOD programs, however, come with a number of challenges concerning data security and the security of devices from which this data is accessed.

Firstly, companies need to ensure that confidential data remains confidential and employees can only access what is relevant to their job. This means implementing a mechanism that is robust, yet not onerous on the user. It may also mean an update in the company’s data architecture in order to enable the simplification of  provisioning and the clarification of access level hierarchy.

Secondly, there is a need to enforce device security features. Things like requiring employees to enable screen locks, disabling password caching and removing questionable apps, all help to create a more secure working environment. An extra step would be to create a list of approved devices to streamline tech support and increase compliance.

Thirdly, employees need to become more vigilant in regards to physical safety of their devices. Phones and laptops often get stolen or damaged. Users can ensure data safety by installing backup software and uploading data to a secure cloud. In the event of device loss or accidental damage, backups can be restored on a new device thus providing business continuity.

In Australia alone, more than 100,000 mobile devices are reported lost or stolen every year. This equates to 2,000 each week or one device every six minutes, according to the data published on Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association website. While not all of these devices would be used for corporate data access, the statistics are staggering.

And finally, BYOD policies need to be applied to all staff without exception. Security policy may quickly become useless if it is ignored by people in leadership positions.

Acronis Data Protection Trends Research revealed that out of the 41% of surveyed organizations with a BYOD policy in place, 25% made exceptions to policy rules giving company executives access to the most sensitive data, placing the whole company at risk if their mobile device was compromised.

It is a given that BYOD is here to stay. It is also obvious that it came about with its own security challenges, giving companies no choice but address the issues in order to stay competitive in this increasingly mobile-focused world.

The good news is that help is now readily available. Data protection vendors have been working extra hard to develop turnkey solutions for enabling mobile environments, known as Mobile Content Management (MCM) systems. Many of them include ongoing technical support, making expert knowledge available to customers whenever they need it.

One such solutions is Acronis Access Advanced. It is specifically designed to enable BYOD while maintaining high standards of data security by way of managing the level of content collaboration needed to foster a productive workforce while ensuring secure access and sharing of vital corporate content. Its granular policy controls enable companies to manage users, apps and data and be responsive to the changing mobile environment.

If you don’t have any clear BYOD policies in place, you have to do some serious analysis and strategizing. Developing best practices for mobile devices and external data access may prove to be critical for the survival of your organization.