Bring Your Own Device to Work – The IT Dilemma
Today mobile devices are ubiquitous. Cell phones, smart phones and tablets are everywhere. Sony recently introduced a watch that connects to your cell phone so you can check incoming emails and texts without taking your phone from your pocket, purse or backpack. At the beginning of 2012 there were over 330 million wireless connection subscribers in the US. We used 2.3 trillion minutes of talk time in 2011 and sent an average of over 190 billion text messages a month. 31% percent of US homes are now exclusively cellular.
I can remember when it was not uncommon to carry two cells phones. One was your work phone and the other was a personal phone. This was mostly driven by the high cost associated with the phones and the fact that companies paid for business phones and were billed directly by the carriers for the usage. Generally the company that paid for the phone frowned on it being used for personal calls. It was also about control. Today, the lines between our personal lives and our work lives have blurred to the point that it is relatively difficult to tell where one begins and other ends. Most of us own the phone we use for work and we also own the number and carry it with us from job to job and even from state to state. It’s not at all uncommon for someone in living in California to have a Colorado area code on their cell phone.
So, here we are in 2012 with hundreds of million devices and wireless connections. Most of the devices are being used for both personal and business use. One company with 15,000 employees recently discovered that over 45,000 devices were connected to its network. That’s a lot of “bring you own device” connections, (BYOD). They were dismayed to find things had proliferated that far.
It’s getting pretty complicated pretty quickly for businesses to deal with. Consider the recent study from Lookout, a company that specializes in helping people find lost phones. Lookout believes that 30 billion dollars’ worth of phones are lost annually and there is a good likelihood that we will all lose more than one in our lifetime.
When a single device goes missing, personal information, personal emails, business emails and all those addresses will be there for the taking. I always implore small- and medium-sized businesses that “it’s time for a BYOD plan’. Every IT admin should be thinking about whether they can remotely wipe employee devices and whether their company data is secure. Do all of your phones have password protection activated? Can the phones be locked remotely or can the data be removed if it comes up missing? If so, do you have a communication plan in place to make sure you can wipe information in a timely manner?
It has not taken us long to go from the closely managed mobility days to the BYOD days and it is unlikely we will be able to turn back the clock at this point. Having a solid plan as an IT Admin will set you up for success in protecting what’s most important.