Developing a strategy for managing and securing employees’ personally owned mobile devices is no longer avoidable. Google Android and iPhone devices are joining BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile smartphones in the workplace, and their numbers are only going to increase in the coming months. Regardless of whether corporate policy allows mobile devices to access the corporate network, workers are bringing them into the office.
What companies are realizing is that allowing employees to use their iPhone to access corporate e-mail and other resources results in greater productivity. In addition, in today’s economic times, enabling personal devices helps companies offload some of the cost because employees often pay for these devices themselves.
Corporate IT departments naturally are cautious about opening up the network and allowing full access to any device. IT needs control over how and under what circumstances mobile devices can access corporate systems. Finding just the right balance—maintaining the integrity and security of the network while allowing easy access to the applications users need to be more productive—will give organizations a competitive advantage in the coming years.
Setting the ground rules
IT can secure the network for mobile devices without endangering corporate assets. Let’s explore how to protect your environment and provide employees the flexibility to use their personal devices without compromising critical enterprise resources.
A good starting point for IT managers is to definitively identify who is accessing, or trying to access the network. Every user shouldn’t automatically get access to everything on the network—not by a long shot. Take the time to survey your departments and employees to determine what they hope to gain from mobility.
When it comes to security, the bare minimum for securing personally-owned devices is password enforcement and on-device data encryption. Other critical areas include the ability to identify which devices are connected to the network at any given time, and the ability to remotely wipe lost devices. One security strategy that many companies are adopting is a "sandbox approach." This involves storing enterprise data, including e-mail and applications, in a distinct area of the device, and encrypting and password protecting only that data. All other files, including personal music, videos, and photos, are available to the user without logging in to the device.
Because most IT departments are spread very thin, the best strategy for making all of these adjustments to corporate policies is to keep things as simple as possible. Rather than adding another screen to the bank of displays that IT managers already need to look at for network status and the like, it makes sense to give users a measure of self-sufficiency to comply with company policy.
Sybase customer Baloise Insurance was faced with the challenge of personal devices coming to work. The company decided to install a self-service portal to enable users to locally set up and maintain corporate data on a variety of mobile devices including iPhones. After implementing Sybase software, the company has cut the number of help desk calls in half, reduced engineering and support time, and improved overall satisfaction and productivity of end users.
Time to Embrace Mobile Devices
For IT professionals facing the onslaught of personal devices in the workplace, smartphones don’t have to be viewed as a violation of corporate security policies. Since the vast majority of employees are using personal devices at home, harnessing this trend and turning it into an advantage for your company makes sound business sense and will go a long way to keeping employees happy and productive.