The consumer device market has revolutionized how individuals connect and perform daily activities, leading to a rapid change in employee mobility demands and needs. But most enterprises are still struggling to keep in sync. The mobile flexibility and ease of use that is achieved outside of the workplace is just better and years ahead of the enterprise. Even though BYOD isn’t new, enterprise IT still has little to no direction on how to both control and allow mobile access to sensitive information. Can enterprise IT establish a new symbiotic relationship that will both increase access and mobile security at the same time?
Approaching mobility blindly
Without strategic mobile IT policies and techniques, it’s difficult for the enterprise to protect intellectual property on mobile devices. But many enterprise IT departments turn a blind eye when it comes to managing mobile devices, and can never be truly secure about the way employees are behaving.
- Many organizations still only allow VPN access to obtain files, with no access to major documentation on mobile devices. This means that when an employee has to update a deck or other important document on the road, they have to pop out their laptop and make updates, or not make any updates at all.
- Employees leaning on consumer-grade file sync and share solutions like Dropbox or Google Drive or flash drives to share and access data away from their company supplied laptops. This opens organizations up to third-party threats and non-authorized access to data storage locations.
- Enterprise IT is challenged by new devices everyday, yet there still is not enough focus around compliance and governance of the intellectual property being accessed on mobile devices or the ones that are being shared from the cloud.
This level of blind trust and ignorance is hurting many organizations and keeping them behind, even as the consumer device market introduces new solutions to old productivity issues. Before it gets too out of control, enterprise IT must play mobile catch up.
Increase mobile access and control simultaneously
Establishing mobile governance is one of the first steps to increasing access and better managing mobile devices in the workplace. There must be cross collaboration between security, IT, legal and finance to fully incorporate all individual best practice tips to better educate and manage mobile risks. By keeping these policies available and transparent to the rest of the organization, total transparency can be achieved, while still allowing access.
As discussed earlier, if employees are allowed no access, they are more apt to use techniques to share information that could be harmful to your organization. To enable more control and still increase access, implement a central enterprise file sync and share application to eliminate use of consumer grade cloud services, as well as the occasional flash or zip drive used to share information.
Apply stringent policies for provisioning and deprovisioning of the mobile workforce as they increase the need for access to files and data. Integrate any such IT Infrastructure into the file sync and share solution for more security and access. With a universal sync and share approach, enterprise IT can more directly monitor use – identifying where, when and how much of data is being accessed.
By enabling access with a universal sync and share approach, IT can access the information they need for compliance reporting and auditing, while still enabling access. By providing a central, advanced access point to access data from an enterprise controlled mobile portal, enterprise IT can actually remain in control of data and even actively follow file-sharing activities.
In addition to staying in control of how and how much data is being shared, it’s important to incorporate solutions that will actually remove even the issue of human error from the equation. Access can be turned off when necessary through mobile management solutions if a laptop is lost for example, or an employee goes rogue, or simply just leaves the company. That way, you remain in complete control of your mobile data from any location, while keeping data where it lives.
Future proofing the enterprise shouldn’t be about drastic changes; it’s about taking careful collaborative steps that don’t have to change every time a new mobile device is introduced.
Enterprises must take ownership of their own data, taking steps to ensure that it’s left on premises, but still accessible when necessary. Taking advantage of private cloud capabilities is a key method to link data and the BYOD onslaught.
Using, for example, an open-source infrastructure as a service (IaaS) approach can enable the enterprise to access, control and manage files across various corporate data silos. By working with system administrators to decide what servers to manage as a private cloud, the enterprise can control how mobile users access files.
This type of control also provides more flexibility to employees, helping users more easily access enterprise data from any type of device, from a single unified storage device. Solutions that offer server-to-server sharing capabilities, such as ownCloud, can actually share files seamlessly with users on different installations without using shared links. This leads you to retain and control your own private cloud, while still benefiting from public cloud file sharing.
The fact is, enterprise IT can still be in control of intellectual property, even if it is accessed by a mobile device, with little need for future proofing.
Modern enterprise environments must take a more proactive and collaborative approach to managing consumer mobile devices in the workplace. If a system is in place to manage mobility risks, then there is no reason why new consumer devices can’t connect or high-level content shouldn’t be available on mobile devices. Your employees, and overall business, will be happier in the long run.
Markus Rex is CEO and co-founder of ownCloud Inc. Throughout his career he was heavily involved in all critical areas of the Linux market, including engineering, product architecture, management and marketing and executive leadership. Previously he served as SVP and general manager of Novell’s SUSE Linux Open Platform Solutions business unit. Earlier he was CTO for the Linux Foundation. He also served as Novell’s CTO for Linux and in various engineering management roles at SUSE.