Let the iPhones in the Office
Employers should allow workers to freely use personal smartphones in the workplace. Pro or con?
Pro: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…
In any debate, it’s nice when the opposing viewpoint is merely a theoretical possibility. The fact is that employee-owned devices are coming into the enterprise, despite attempts to prevent them. Even the definition of “into” is vague. Think about it: Even if your company used TSA-style body scanners to prevent you from bringing personal devices to the office, would you ever call a co-worker from your personal iPhone (AAPL) when at home or on vacation? Of course.
So this debate is akin to: “Should we let gravity push us down?” Fun to talk about, but the outcome has essentially been determined. And there are a lot of compelling reasons for allowing BYO technology:
Employees are more productive using devices with which they’re comfortable
Staff morale improves because workers can use their gadgets of choice
Procurement is spared some of the cost of reequipping employees with the latest technology
And my favorite:
They’re going to do it anyway, so why not manage what you can’t prevent?
Some organizations may bristle at BYOT, expressing valid concerns over manageability and security. However, you can mitigate these threats. First, develop clear procedures for securely connecting personal devices to the company network. Also, determine the level of support you’ll provide for personal devices—and what will happen if they’re stolen or lost. Finally, adopt support solutions that let IT easily manage and support a variety of mobile platforms.
Yes, mobile devices need to become more secure and manageable, but your employees aren’t going to wait.
Con: Trouble Waiting to Happen
Allowing employees to connect personal smartphones to corporate networks threatens information security and network privacy and can result in loss of employee productivity and misuse of corporate resources.
With some 300,000 entertainment and other apps available for the iPhone alone, potential distractions are endless and can drain productivity. In addition, many smartphones come equipped with dual cameras for video calling. Wireless carriers offload this video traffic from their 3G networks to available WiFi networks—meaning employees can video chat on the company’s dime and bandwidth.
Mobile devices may inadvertently compromise sensitive communication and information. Increasingly, smartphones are as powerful and versatile as PCs, rendering them vulnerable to viruses and malware. A smartphone’s portability also makes it easier for it to get lost or stolen, increasing the chances that valuable business data will end up in the wrong hands. Some corporations have employees sign a waiver that allows the company to delete all information on the device if it is lost. However, delays in reporting lost devices could give hackers all the time they need. Smartphone viruses and malware applications can infect corporate networks and instantly steal or leak proprietary information.
Corporations have tried to address some of these issues by implementing strong policies—for instance, separating devices for corporate and personal use and adopting security and network-segmentation techniques. But ever-changing mobile-user interactions, the proliferation of applications, and the diversification of platforms will continue to keep security professionals up at night.