Balancing BYOD and security

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How can IT teams manage data protection and ensure employee productivity?


As the world’s leading workspace provider, Regus is always thinking about office trends and what works best for the modern business and modern employee – both now and in the future. With the rise of smartphones and cloud computing, one of the biggest trends involves Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work, which allows people to do their jobs whenever and wherever they want. As exciting as this may be, however, there are potential downsides to this unalloyed freedom that need to be taken into account to manage the phenomenon effectively.

Because the primary concern of any good IT team is to protect company data, one way of dealing with the “bring your device to work” trend is to install mobile application management software across personal smartphones. This approach gives a company a tight handle on corporate data, since it effectively controls the flow of information between mobile devices and company servers – but it also has implications for employee privacy. The installation of a software agent means that all activity, including that from personal banking apps to private social networks, is forced through the corporate network, and this is unlikely to sit well with employees in a world that places increasing emphasis on individuals and the right to privacy.

In fact, research by the data-protection specialist Bitglass found that over half of those surveyed chose not to participate in their company’s BYOD policy because of privacy concerns. One potential pitfall with a strict policy is that employees who are used to working to their own tune will simply find a workaround solution that circumnavigates corporate security measures. This turn of events has obvious implications for data protection – and to opportunity to collect vital information on how corporate data is used.

A drastic solution to the BYOD/freedom/privacy debate is to ban BYOD altogether. But it’s not the way the world of work is going (once toothpaste is out of the tube it’s hard to put back): a Regus study showed that 74% of managers agreed mobile working was a key component of productivity. So rather than installing software on private devices (a logistical nightmare in itself), the smart answer lies in approaching the problem from a different angle – by protecting the data itself. Proxy technologies (think encryption) can protect information wherever it ends up, and is far easier to roll out than tracking individual devices that get lost, renewed and forgotten about in coat pockets and at the bottom of bags. It’s a solution that keeps employees and managers happy, and allows IT teams to do their jobs effectively too.


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