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Your employees are at the BYOD party, so why aren’t you?

Posted by Chad O'Connor  January 14, 2013 11:00 AM

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The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement is expanding. Without personal device management plans in place, this could spell trouble for businesses as employees access company data as they please, ultimately taking IT into their own hands and leaving organizations vulnerable to security threats.

Did we honestly expect all of these “personal” devices to remain strictly for personal use? Certainly not; especially as it’s been found that 81 percent of employees use personal devices for business purposes. By having BYOD best practices – ones that are easy-to-follow, while stringent enough for the enterprise – as an integral part of their IT strategies, organizations can realize the inherent productivity and cost benefits while IT maintains control and security of the network.

Do BYOD’s Rewards Outweigh the Risks?
In today’s society, anything less than ‘instant’ is too slow. Today’s worker has become accustomed to on-demand data and social media connectivity, often using personal devices as the platform to achieve this highly-available access. But, with instant, anywhere access to company data and applications comes inherent security concerns. Sensitive data on personal devices don’t only travel outside the four walls of your organization, but outside the control of IT. Do BYOD’s risks outweigh the rewards? With the productivity, connectivity and accessibility that BYOD offers employees, the answer is most certainly yes.

BYOD has allowed for a more-connected, data-driven workplace to take hold. With anywhere-access to email and company data, employees can more easily conduct business at 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m. to align with the schedules of colleagues and clients all over the world. With employees increasingly working from home, businesses can save on previously-unavoidable overhead costs caused by employees working within the office, such as fewer desks to fill and computers to power.

IT-approved devices make up only a fraction of those in the workforce, as the majority of devices being used are personal, trying to fly under the radar and out of sight from IT’s watchful eye. By integrating BYOD management practices into IT strategies, there’s no need to panic. With careful device configuration and policies, the security, availability and accessibility of an organization’s data can remain safe and sound globally.

Incorporating BYOD into IT Strategies
So, what can organizations do right now to guide the BYOD movement in a way that fosters connectivity and highly-available data, but also expels security concerns? Below are a few tips to help executives incorporate BYOD into their everyday IT strategies:

1. Incorporate Mobile Device Management (MDM) – By requiring employees to enroll any personal devices that access the network in a corporate MDM system, they can be automatically configured for secure access to corporate email and resources. In addition, any necessary restrictions and policies can be applied using MDM, such as ensuring that devices require an unlock code to be accessed. Lastly, it’s important to remember that bring-your-own-device becomes take-your-own-device when an employee leaves the company, so IT departments should ensure they can remotely wipe any sensitive corporate data when this happens.

2. Conduct Security Audits – If the IT department evaluates the corporate network for vulnerabilities that come with the territory of opening up the network to hundreds (even thousands) of new devices, IT can update the security infrastructure accordingly.

3. Integrate with a Central Management Tool – For many regulated industries, tracking which devices are accessing the network is critical. By integrating with a tool that allows for central management of network administration and security, executives can ensure a level of monitoring that meets the strictest of compliancy regulations. For example, the IT department will know the details of exactly which devices are accessing the corporate network at all times.

4. Provide Simple Solutions – File access not only needs to be managed and secured, but also easy for employees to use. If not, employees may resort to other unsafe consumer-grade file-sharing alternatives that are more user-friendly. An ideal solution combines the ease-of-use of consumer-grade solutions, with enterprise-grade security.

5. Plan for the Worst – Inevitably, employees will lose or break their personal device at some point or another. By having a company-wide plan in place, employees will know how to report it so IT can quickly wipe sensitive data from the device and deny it access to the network.

There is a lot of potential for data access, availability and protection in the workplace to foster greater connectivity and collaboration. By embracing BYOD with secure management practices, the enterprise will not only ensure business continuity, but secure a competitive advantage over those organizations less prepared for the BYOD movement.

Scott Crenshaw is Senior Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Acronis, a Woburn, MA company specializing in data availability, accessibility and protection solutions for physical, virtual and cloud environments.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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