We see them every day, at work, on the train, at conferences, at coffee shops, and everywhere else that people might gather: hand-held devices that function as telephones, Internet access devices, network access devices, or perhaps merely toys upon which we can play “Angry Birds.”
They are pervasive, inexpensive, and versatile. But they also beg the question of whether they are truly ready for prime time, in the business sense of the term.
The truth is that a lot depends on how these devices are used and what sort of access they are granted. At the end of the day, this question is really about balancing convenience and security. The knee-jerk response is that security will trump convenience every time. However, if convenience enables people to be more connected and do more work than the otherwise might, then that makes the decision somewhat tricky, doesn’t it?
For leaders of small businesses who find these devices showing up in the workplace and on the network, the best advice might be to consult your favorite channel partner. Give that partner a sense of how many devices are getting onto the network and where on the network they are going. Then share with the channel partner your perceived vulnerabilities and what you need to protect. In most cases, some sort of protection, even if only in the form of policies, will be available.
It’s also true that some devices may be “harder” than others. So the rules may differ somewhat, based on the type of unit that is seeking to gain access.
Once the security piece is addressed, it will likely be important to communicate the situation with your employees. Stress the fact that IT security is something that affects everyone’s online safety and everyone’s job. This is not about finding fault. This is about protecting the data that is critical to everyone’s paycheck while at the same time ensuring as much access and convenience as practical. Ask them what sorts of data they seek to access on their device so that security measures can be conducted efficiently and effectively. Putting the question to them in this manner can not only secure the necessary levels of cooperation. It can also help you to predict vulnerabilities that you might not otherwise know existed.
But having these devices in use also makes it easier for your employees to remain connected and stay engaged with the business at hand. Information is more available to them. Emails tend to get responses more quickly, and overall access is simply improved. These are all substantial benefits.
As you work with your staff, your management, ad your channel partner, new perspectives on technology can emerge, which can unleash your employee productivity without putting your most protected data assets at risk.