Very few people would dispute that bring your own device (BYOD) is graduating into a full-fledged corporate phenomenon as the use of tablets and smartphones has become more widespread among enterprise employees. And there's no denying the arrival of these devices and the development of a wide variety of corresponding productivity applications could provide substantial benefits to the enterprise.
But many mobile devices are employee-owned and this trend will only increase, with market research company Gartner predicting as many as 50% of employers will require workers to use their own devices for work by 2017. This is bound to present difficulties as demand grows from users and organisations to exploit the increased power of their smartphones and tablets to access and interact with content.
Access to content, which includes the files, documents, presentations, spreadsheets, images, and reports that employees interact with every day, allows users of mobile devices to tap into the lifeblood of any organisation, opening up the possibility of major leaps in productivity and efficiency.
In addition to accessing, editing and creating content on their mobile devices, users also want to be able to sync content across all devices to give them anytime, anywhere access and to share that content with colleagues, customers, partners and other external constituents.
The threat of data leakage
But without an appropriate strategy that enables access, syncing and sharing of content in a secure and safe fashion, organisations are at risk from data leakages if users email files to themselves, use unauthorised third party apps to edit documents and other files or rely on consumer-grade solutions like Dropbox to sync files across devices and share them with others.
These ad hoc, guerrilla approaches to accessing, syncing and sharing data leave organisations with no visibility on what files are moving in and out, where they have been, if they have been changed, if copies have been made and who is sharing them.
It is possible to securely and safely manage the security risks posed by BYOD while enabling employees to get the job done anywhere, anytime and from any device. Proper procedures established by the IT department can safeguard and secure content, help to foster happy employees, increase productivity and lead to streamlined, managed workflows.
What to look for
Comprehensive access, sync and share solutions are available that balance the employee's need for consumer-grade simplicity with enterprise-grade control, security and management for the employer.
When evaluating such solutions, organisations should consider a number of features, such as on-premise deployment for the greatest amount of control and security without sacrificing user flexibility and Active Directory integration to ensure seamless authentication, provisioning and management.
Other factors to look at are policy setting (to create security policies for content, users and devices), encryption (to protect data in transit and on the device), remote wipe (to protect corporate data if a device is lost or stolen) and audit logs (to see what users are doing, the documents they access and who they share them with). The provision of 'in-app' Office document editing and PDF annotation within the secure sandbox also eliminates data leakage and improves user productivity.
Secure BYOD is in within your grasp
As with most technological advancements, once the use of personal devices within workplaces achieves a critical mass, it will be harder for employers to impose their desired level of control upon BYOD without being swept aside.
It's far better that they take steps now to ensure they have the security, access and management policies and strategies in place to accommodate BYOD when it becomes established and adopted into the mainstream.
Strategies need to balance the needs of users with the enterprise's desire to stay in control and address security, management, compliance and visibility. Organisations should evaluate solutions to ensure they support the integration of diverse computing platforms and devices into their existing, complex enterprise environment.
Emerging access, sync and share solutions are available that can give organisations the peace of mind to enable BYOD securely and safely for their employees while reassuring users they will not cause security breaches by using personal mobile devices in their working environment. Organisations and users can rest assured that, just like the smartphones and tablets they increasingly rely on, secure BYOD is within their grasp.
- Anders Lofgren is VP Product Management at Acronis Access (opens in new tab)