Over the past few days there have been multiple articles espousing the importance of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and mobility. While there are those that insist mobile phones will soon exceed desktop phones, the facts don’t support the conclusion. It is expected that desktop phones will continue to be the primary communications device for the foreseeable future simply due to the cost of replacing all of the devices. However the importance of mobile devices has grown to a point where an AT&T study indicated that 66% of small businesses (2-99 employees) could not survive without mobile devices.
Given the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it is not surprising that mobile devices have altered many business practices and users are now dependent upon the devices. As the devices become more sophisticated, users move more of their daily functions away from simplistic desk phones and desktop PCs. Paychex released a study last year noting that 85% of small businesses acknowledge using mobile devices to regularly conduct business with 42% of business owners using a smartphone as their primary phone number.
Last week Samsung announced the Samsung 4 and included with the product is the ability to separate personal mobile data from business data. Both Samsung and BlackBerry recognize the need to establish some level of security on BYOD mobile environments. The Samsung security application is called KNOX and the BlackBerry app is called Balance. Both enable the secure separation of corporate and personal information to protect corporate data and applications.
If BYOD access is provided to corporate data and applications, recognize that the user is also bringing any downloaded or purchased applications, malware or viruses. Even iOS from Apple is now a target of malware creators and distributors and requires a plan for protection. In previous blogs I have addressed the need to establish policies governing the use of BYOD and we now need to concern ourselves with BYOA or the applications running on mobile devices.
While there are best practices in developing usage rules and system protections, it is important for each business to look at their unique IT environment to determine what practices to employ. Don’t delay. The rewards of mobile computing are great and all of us want the increased productivity, flexibility and access without the preventable risk. One quick piece of advice, while developing your BYOD governance, make sure that your BYOD users run the most recent versions of the device operating system. These are usually the most secure and address any recently identified risks.