Article

Left to Your Own Devices

A Look at “Bring Your Own Device” Tech Solutions

Dan Sorensen

May 6, 2013


In corporate America, a battle is happening that many employees never see or think about. The battle lines are drawn over something that is often called BYOD, or bring your own device. The discussion about employees bringing their own devices into the workplace is not new, but with Cisco reporting that by the end of 2013 there will be more mobile devices than the number of people on Earth, 7 billion and counting, BYOD has never been a hotter topic.

On the surface, facilitating BYOD in the workplace is a no-brainer. Why would any organization hesitate to provide an employee with the information they need, wherever they need it, at the tips of their fingertips? Having an employee connected 24/7 essentially means no more important emails are missed, client emergencies can be handled immediately and many more efficiency benefits. 

Unfortunately, in today’s world, security is essential and must be considered before anything else.

Finding Safety in the Cloud

We primarily think of our mobile devices as tools to access email, but that only scratches the surface of possibilities. Cloud computing has dramatically changed what’s possible on a mobile device. By offloading a good portion of processing and data storage to the cloud, applications and smartphones can do more than many ever thought possible.

As companies turn to software-as-a-service (SaaS) to accomplish their business needs, mobile devices quickly become gateways to a smorgasbord of information. Cloud computing companies that provide SaaS tools, like Workday—which recently opened an office in Salt Lake City—and Salesforce.com, help businesses empower their employees while providing the layered security needed to ensure private information is not compromised.

Management Infrastructure Tools

Unfortunately, there might not be a cloud solution for every one of your company’s needs. If that’s the case, creating a BYOD-friendly policy can still be achieved. Management infrastructure tools provide businesses with the security they need to ensure their data is safe. Companies like Utah-based LANDesk provide these solutions for organizations around the world.

Management infrastructure solutions provide employees with a portal into a secure area where they can safely access any information from wherever is most convenient. All the data is saved on the server, not the device.  

 “You have to really change how you deliver information out to your employees,” says Carol Fineagan, chief information officer at Nelson Laboratories. “You used to store a lot of information on the desktop or laptop. With BYOD, you want to move that perimeter of information security back to the server, so the device is really just viewing information and you’re storing and writing information back to the server in your secure environment.”

While similar to a virtual private network (VPN), management infrastructure solutions provide employees with one view into all their information—so whether they access their data through their laptop, tablet, mobile device or home desktop, it’s all there, wherever, whenever.

This differs from virtual desktop infrastructure in that the interface matches whatever device it is accessed from, meaning if data is accessed from a mobile device it will be presented in a way that is easy to read and use.

The Dropbox Problem

While the so-called “Dropbox Problem” extends far beyond any specific application, it demonstrates why companies should find ways to facilitate BYOD for their employees. Dropbox is a file-hosting service that allows users to upload documents to a server and then sync them with other devices. These types of applications create a security threat that can be hard to combat.

The Dropbox Problem can be divided into two parts. The first is that Dropbox might not be as secure as your company’s network. Even if it is, once those files are synced and downloaded to other devices, there’s no guarantee how secure those devices are. Other devices, like USB keys, external hard drives or other tools can easily be lost as well.

The second occurs when an employee leaves the organization. You can secure an employee’s work computer, but any files that have already been uploaded to their Dropbox account, or synced with other computers, cannot be recovered.

 “You don’t want to control the physical device, because right now your information is going out the door whether you know it or not,” says Fineagan. “People have thumb drives, cell phones, the internet, so [allowing BYOD] actually gives you tighter control to be cognizant of these things so you can plan for them.”

By hosting information on the server and providing easy, secure access as needed, employees will never feel the need to save information to a thumb drive or a file-hosting service.

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