Consumerization Strategies (Part 2)

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Back up BYOD policies with security tools

It’s crucial to create strict BYOD policies that limit the risks associated with consumerization, but that can’t be your only course of action. After all, if you give your employees free rein on your network with only mere suggestions to contain their activities, many users will simply do what they think is right. This is not an option for companies where there is a risk of significant data leakage via mobile devices.

The degree of security you need depends on how mobile devices are being used at your company

The degree of security you need depends on how mobile devices are being used at your company

The degree of security you need depends on how mobile devices are being used at your company. You can look at it from a general perspective, but it doesn’t hurt to dig a little deeper into individual departments and roles. A field service technician’s device, for example, doesn’t hold too much information, Hafner says. “It’s got a couple of drawings on how the pieces of equipment he might repair have to be put back together, things like that. If it gets lost, I just wipe the device and I don’t really care. You have to determine what it is that’s going to be on there and the level of risk.”

But for employees who need access to internal company resources in order to do their job from remote locations, businesses can implement solutions like virtual desktops or thin clients on tablets. With this approach, employees can “look at information that is stored back on the data center, like you would with a virtual desktop that you might have,  but there’s really nothing stored on the device there at all,” says Hafner. He warns though that this type of solution relies heavily on connectivity, so if any of your employees are working in regions with poor reception, this might not be an option.

DeBeasi also suggests that companies consider MDM (mobile device management) solutions, which provide more control over devices. Companies can actually monitor devices as endpoints and make sure they aren’t accessing sensitive data or, worse, downloading it or transmitting it elsewhere. MDM solutions help companies allow or deny network connections as well as just have a better view into network activity from a mobile perspective.

mobile device management solutions

Mobile device management solutions

Another potential solution that both Hafner and DeBeasi recommend when implementing BYOD policies is containerization. Containerization allows you to set aside some storage for enterprise-only apps, which blocks access to or from other applications on the device. “For example, you’ve got your business app on there that does whatever it needs to do and they’ve loaded down 50 games or apps,” says Hafner. These are isolated from each other, so there’s no way for you to share a file from the business app with one of the other apps or the other way around.” This also prevents potential malware from seemingly trustworthy applications from affecting any business data that’s stored on the device.

DeBeasi warns that “as you go from Exchange ActiveSync, to MDM, to containers, the IT organization gets more and more controls, but it becomes a little more intrusive to the user.” There is a trade-off between control and user experience that should be taken into consideration and is a “balance that enterprises have to make,” he says. After all, the main point of implementing a BYOD policy is to allow employees to use their devices safely and effectively to increase their productivity.

Continued growth of consumerization

According to Hafner, consumerization should continue to increase as employees are considering or already bringing their own PCs, in addition to smartphones and tablets, into the workplace. But he doesn’t necessarily see a time, in the next five years at least, where BYOD replaces everything. And the main reason for that is that some employees simply don’t want the responsibility of keeping up with technology and choosing their own devices.

You have to make sure you have control over your company’s data and resources, but still give employees what they need

You have to make sure you have control over your company’s data and resources, but still give employees what they need

“You’re trying to run a business, and if the person is not technology literate, and depending on what the job is, they might depend on the organization to not only supply the devices, but more importantly to support devices,” says Hafner. “When we’re helping people put together BYOD strategies for their organizations, we tell them that you have an opt-in and an opt-out plan for people that don’t want to do these things, because you can’t necessarily force them.”

However, Hafner doesn’t rule out a future where companies may decide to create new positions or hire new employees on the condition that as a part of their contract of employment, they must “always have a PC and a smartphone that’s less than two years old” and the company may offer compensation for usage. But one thing is undeniable: Consumerization is here to stay, and BYOD policies will be more important than ever. You have to make sure you have control over your company’s data and resources, but still give employees what they need.

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