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    Securing personal devices in the age of remote work

    Smarter Writer
    Smarter Team

    A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

    Smarter Writer
    Smarter Team

    A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

    The rise of remote working is making bring your own device (BYOD) practices more popular than ever – but with more devices in your business network comes the need to keep up with your business protection.

    Male tradesman checking his mobile

    As a large portion of the workforce moved to working from home overnight – and many continue to do so – your business may have overlooked the need for a device management strategy, or to adjust your cyber-security measures for the changing environment. For small and medium businesses, enabling longer-term remote working needs could be vital post-COVID.

    Although many of us are commuting and traveling for work less than before (meaning less work on-the-go), the future could hold entirely new ways of remote working and collaborating. Here, we look at the benefits and implications of BYOD, and why device protection must extend from desktop to mobile and other connected devices to keep your business secure.

    Benefits of BYOD

    When staff are working on their own devices, there’s no learning curve on how to use them. It’s convenient and empowering for your team to be able to access work-related communication channels on their own smartphone or laptop, especially when they’re on-the-go. And for small and medium businesses, BYOD makes sense financially – it requires less capital investment in technology.

    What to look out for

    Because devices are not owned by your business, there are fewer controls around what each device is used for and what is stored on it – after all, the phone is the personal possession of an employee. It also means that if an employee leaves the business, there’s the potential for them to take valuable intellectual property and sensitive business data outside an ecosystem that protects it.

    Start with a policy

    BYOD is not an up and coming trend, it is already here – your team may have been using their own devices for work long before COVID-19. Having a BYOD policy is a safeguard for both your business and its employees, with the interest of both parties in mind. At its core, a good BYOD policy should include:

    1. Devices
      Be clear which devices are allowed in your business. Consider what types of devices your team use and what you can effectively monitor with your device management system.
    2. Security
      It's important to enforce mandatory security programs and to be able to remotely wipe devices. This will help protect sensitive data and limit opportunities for malicious activities by hackers. Remote deletion software can be programmed to only wipe business data - leaving personal photos, music and contacts untouched. 
    3. Privacy and personal use
      Your team must be made aware if their device will be monitored or tracked. Some people might not be comfortable with this, so it's important that employee privacy is discussed and agreed to. 

    Protection in practice 

    A virtual private network (VPN) is an essential tool for keeping business data secure, especially when users are performing works tasks from various network connections. VPNs are affordable and easy to use - so for minimal effort, your team can connect securely and access business files safely from just about anywhere. If you want to step up your protection even more, and if you have the means, you could consider outsourcing your mobile device management. Hiring an expert can give you peace of mind and free you up to focus on other business activities. 

    The verdict

    Allowing employees to use their own preferred devices has a number of benefits. And while many businesses were thrust into remote working due to COVID-19, there are many ways you can protect your business and make BYOD work for you. Whether it’s as simple as having work emails on a smartphone, or as complex as being able to upload sensitive client information or revenue forecasts into the cloud, there needs to be safeguards. These measures shouldn’t inhibit the true aims of BYOD – to help staff be more productive, more collaborative and more able to be mobile in their day-to-day work.

    This article was originally published on 15th November 2015 and updated on September 10th 2020.

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