​How to manage data in the BYOD office

Tips on how to secure data in your organisation

Picture: AJ LEON, Flickr

Picture: AJ LEON, Flickr

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has rapidly become an extremely popular way for established and up-and-coming businesses alike to improve productivity in the workplace. There are numerous benefits, including increased flexibility for staff, cost-savings to businesses, reduced training times, and improved employee satisfaction, as they’re able to work with a device they’re both familiar and comfortable with. While there can be considerable benefits, BYOD has brought a number of unique considerations to the workplace for the IT department.

You’ll sometimes hear IT Managers will sometimes speak about “Grey IT”. This basically refers to devices or programs that are unofficially attached to a company’s network – they’re not actively harmful, but they’re not really meant to be there either, hence the “grey” designation. At its best, grey IT can serve as an important place for innovative new developments – new programs, more efficient processes, and so on. But it’s nonetheless a phenomenon that has been largely discouraged in the interests of protecting the network. BYOD, on the other hand, is functionally a grey IT network made official, and this brings a variety of challenges to the modern office that haven’t really been encountered before – the potential consequences of device loss, data theft and viruses, for instance.

Clear policies

Maintaining security of information is everyone’s business, not solely the responsibility of the IT department. But in order for BYOD to be successful, the IT department needs to be effectively communicating these issues to the wider staff body. The easiest way is typically during induction, at which point the policies – and the consequences for violating them – are clearly outlined, and the new employee is required to sign a binding agreement. It should also be clearly explained that these policies are not in place to “spy” on the private lives of staff; rather, the purpose is to maintain data security. In this way, the business has a means for recourse if inappropriate usage does occur.

Remote control

Data is an invaluable commodity in this day and age – so your business should have relevant tools in place to protect against unwanted intruders and data theft. Again, this becomes more difficult with the advent of BYOD, but is certainly possible. Some companies have handled this via specific apps or web-based programs that contain all of the relevant tools that a staff member would require in order to carry out their workplace tasks. This has the advantage of maintaining the positive attributes of BYOD while also allowing a relatively closed system for work purposes. Perhaps most importantly, it means that access and data can be remotely restricted – or deleted – from the central office. This becomes particularly important when staff move on to a new role or are abruptly terminated, as it can be done with speed, preventing any malicious data theft or dissemination.

Backing up

A comprehensive back-up plan is nothing short of essential for any business, BYOD-based or not. But BYOD does have its own unique challenges. There are logistical concerns, particularly when it comes to mobile devices – they have intermittent internet connections, which means that they can only be backed up periodically. In turn, they may involve additional data costs that staff – and you – are unwilling to pay.

If you’re using browser or cloud-based programs, this will address some of the issues; but as with terms of use, one of the best ways to address this situation early on is to include your backup policy as part of the induction. As with the terms of use, it’s then possible to clearly outline the expectations and potential consequences.

In practical terms, enabling auto-backup for mobile devices as soon as the employee enters a WiFi area can aid in the logistics of this situation. If the employee is office-based, then this ensures that backups will be occurring on a regular basis, and ensuring the integrity of your data. Alternatively, scheduling regular updates can also aid in the process.

With the increasingly diverse ways data is accrued and stored, it’s essential to have solid plans and policies around the way your business’ information is stored. Having the right steps in place from an early stage ensures that BYOD can be used to best effect in your office.

Tony Drewitt is General Manager Acronis ANZ

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Tony Drewitt

PC World
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