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Avoid the Loss of Company Data from Personal Devices

19/05/2014 in Technology

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The use of personal mobile devices in the workplace is rocketing. This has allowed your staff to be far more effective which improves your bottom line. With the benefits come some serious potential pitfalls, though. Business owners and senior decision-makers need to embrace these changes to keep the profit but avoid the loss of company data.

Technology choices used to be made by the IT department. Now they are made by your staff. And no wonder. The IT department took too long and was too restrictive. The advent of the app and the explosion in mobile devices changed all that. We can have the app we want, whenever we like and we don’t need to wait for approval. That means we can resolve frustrations in our work life, achieve more and improve profitability for our company.

Dropbox is a great example of an app that solves a business challenge. It allows files to be synchronised to any device. Say you have a sales meeting on Monday morning and you need to finalise the details over the weekend. Pop the files you need into your Dropbox before you leave on Friday and when you get home they are ready and waiting for you.

On Monday morning, open your sales proposal from the Dropbox copy on your smartphone to rehearse the details on the way to your potential customer. Even better, it’ll be in Dropbox on your tablet so you can make some last minute updates. When you get to your customer synchronise a copy to their presentation device so you can show them the information on their meeting room display screen. Once they are convinced, shake hands, print out the contract from Dropbox to their printer and have them sign on the spot.

I know this is a simplification but it does illustrate the potential power of allowing your staff to lead the adoption of technology. Best of all, it didn’t cost your business a penny.

However, as a business owner or decision maker you have commercial, regulatory and legal obligations to fulfil regarding your data. You need to know where it is, and who has access to it in. That Dropbox account we discussed is a personal account so:

  • You can’t tell who has access to it.
  • You don’t know what is in it
  • You don’t know where it is copied (in my illustration there are copies on 5 devices and one of them belongs to a customer)
  • You can’t wipe it when the employees leaves.
  • In fact, you probably don’t even know it exists.

Dropbox is also just an example of a myriad of apps that allow your staff to make your sensitive data available on any device.

As a business owner you need to know what to do. I’d recommend the following:

  1. Embrace the change. Trying to stop everyone in your business using apps will be time consuming, probably futile and certainly counter-productive. It could also lead to ill-feeling so make sure that your staff are involved in the conversation from the beginning.
  2. Understand the extent. Find out how your employees are using their devices and data in your business. Just ask them. As long as you are embracing the change they’ll be really pleased to tell you how these tools help them do their work.
  3. Formulate a plan. Decide how you want your staff to use mobile devices. You will need to implement controls but bear in mind that this won’t be solved using technology alone. You’ll also need to look at your staff policies, handbooks and contracts.
  4. Communicate the plan. Keeping information flowing will encourage transparency, trust and a willingness to help. Consider also extending this to your suppliers and customers. They may have concerns and ideas on improvements that could have mutual benefits.
  5. Keep on top of it. This is an issue that needs to be revisited from time to time to ensure that everything is working as expected. Make sure that the communication continues too, as feedback is essential.