Three years ago I wrote a column for Business 380 about the growing phenomenon of employees bringing their own technology to the workplace to use on their job.
Employees have integrated their smartphones into their lives — and at times seem to be the focal point of their lives. It was only natural that they would bring these devices to work and use them on the job.
Smartphone and tablet apps provide access to office emails, productivity tools, office software and more. These apps became available at low costs or were free.
Employees naturally added them to their phones and tablets to help them become more productive. Employees on the road found smartphones really helped them to stay in touch with the office and with customers.
Many business owners like the idea of employees buying and using their own devices to improve their productivity. However, as with many new developments, unforeseen problems have arisen.
To get access to the company’s computer files, the IT folks were regularly requested to help the company’s staff set up their phones and tablets with new apps to allow access to the company’s network. With a myriad devices, operating systems, etc., this was a time taker for the tech people.
However, companies recognized the benefits of BYOD and have responded in several ways to support their employees. After all, there are productivity increases with low costs when employees use their own devices.
When the workplace has a large variety of smartphones and tablets with access to the company’s network, data security becomes a big issue.
To deal with this serious problem, managers from across all the functional areas must think through what kinds of controls are needed to protect data accessed in their respective areas. Then a BYOD policy manual needs to be created addressing the vulnerabilities of the company’s data across all areas.
A good policy manual is not so complicated and/or restrictive that the potential for productivity gains will not be realized. Conversely, it cannot be so general and loose that the data remains vulnerable.
Many guides for policies can be found on the Internet, so don’t take the time to reinvent the wheel.
Company data may be accessed with a smartphone or tablet. However, sensitive company data should not be left on these devices — data should only be stored on the company’s protected network.
As smartphones and tablets easily are lost and stolen, employees using sensitive company information must have apps installed to lock this information or erase it if the device is lost. These requirements are in a good BYOD manual.
In addition, the BYOD manual should define acceptable and unacceptable uses of smartphones and tablets for the company. That will help to control software installations as well as remind users of what all they might want to have, and thus share productivity tools.
Some companies help with the cost of these devices to encourage usage. Not only does that encourage the productivity gains from usage on the job, but it can be a morale builder.
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• Mike McKay is general manager and co-founder of Keystone IT; email@example.com