The Office Outdoors – Embracing Mobility

 With cloud computing services now a key part of IT infrastructure for many businesses and the uptake of mobile devices continuing to grow rapidly, employees can effectively take their office with them wherever they go. Tablets and smartphones are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace because they allow people to check and send emails, schedule meetings and complete tasks while on the move or at another location. Furthermore, the presence of cloud and virtualisation solutions makes the whole process seamless - employees can start a task at their desktop computer, leave the office and continue to work on the same document using their tablet while they travel to a meeting or take the train home. There is no need to download a piece of software first or ensure certain files are saved to the device.

 Laptop Dominance is Waning

Of course, people have been using laptops to work remotely for several years now. But the sheer ease of use offered by tablets and smartphones, combined with their ability to switch quickly between communication tools and other applications, means these devices look set to become increasingly dominant. In October 2012, tech research firm Gartner predicted that mobile phones would overtake PCs as the most common web access device this year and claimed tablet shipments will reach 50% of laptop shipments by 2015.

Mobility offers plenty of opportunities for businesses - a network of employees who are connected beyond the physical confines of the office will be more productive, efficient, flexible and quick to respond to sudden changes. However, there are also a number of risks that employers must ensure they understand before they can fully embrace this trend.

Unsurprisingly, the main concern for organisations using mobile devices is security. Some companies choose to issue their staff with a standard device for work purposes - a BlackBerry or an iPad is a popular choice - but for many employers, a policy of bring your own device (BYOD) is preferred. Companies allow staff to use devices they already own because it offers greater flexibility and is likely to increase employee satisfaction, as well as significantly reducing costs. According to a recent global survey by Gartner, half of employers will require their staff to supply a personal device for work purposes by 2017. This prompted Gartner analyst David Willis to remark that BYOD strategies represent "the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades". In addition, research published by Cisco in May last year revealed that 95% of US companies with more than 1,000 employees were already allowing employees to bring their own devices into the workplace.

The Security Risks 0f BYOD

However, there are a number of BYOD security issues that require careful consideration. At the most basic level, the theft or loss of an employee's device can leave businesses facing a potentially damaging data leak. Even when devices stay in the hands of their user, companies may be worried about data flowing beyond the parameters of their network, where it can no longer be monitored. Furthermore, devices that are used both within and outside the corporate IT infrastructure are more likely to expose the network to malware and other cyber security threats.

Desktop Virtualisation

Desktop virtualisation is another emerging technology that supports mobility. It allows enables to enjoy a similar experience across a range of devices, from desktop PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets. According to the Cisco survey, 50% of companies said their organisation is in the process of introducing a desktop virtualisation strategy. However, data protection is often cited as a key concern with this technology as well.

Companies therefore need to strike a balance between allowing employees the level of remote access they expect and ensuring their system is equipped to handle these devices securely. Encouragingly, IT solutions are largely keeping pace with BYOD and the wider mobility trend. This means companies can implement mobile management and virtualisation systems that protect sensitive data and provide users with secure access to key apps and documents.

Speaking to Forbes in July, former analyst at Forrester Research Andrew Jaquith acknowledged that security concerns mean some businesses are still reluctant to move with the times. However, he claimed that organisations stand to lose out more by failing to embrace the workforce mobility trend. "BYOD is often seen as a security risk, but there is no greater risk than ignoring the mobile phenomenon. The advantages to adopting a BYOD policy are plentiful."

If you have any doubts about security issues relating to embracing mobility in the workplace then contact your IT Support company . Be more vigilant of intellectual property being ‘Acquired’ if you are planning redundancies or you know that a worker is leaving. Statistics demonstrate that at these times companies are at their most vulnerable to IP theft.

 

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