Take a look around your workplace and you’ll probably see a mix of mobile devices being used by your employees for work purposes. Tech providers and publications call this trend BYOD, for “bring your own device.” This is good and bad for business owners. It can give employees more flexibility and improve productivity. But it also poses serious challenges when it comes to data security.
What can you do to help keep your business safe? One option is to take a cue from larger companies and implement a mobile device management (MDM) system. An MDM platform enables businesses to monitor and manage mobile devices through a central console. You can easily track devices, protect the data on them if they are lost or stolen, and decide which apps employees can access.
Coupled with a sound mobile-use policy, an MDM platform can be a valuable tool in helping safeguard your business from malware and data loss. Still, managing your mobile devices isn’t always a one-size-fits-all answer. Here are three steps I urge small businesses to follow:
1. Assess Your Needs
First, you need to find out what devices your employees use, what they use them for, and what they may need them for in the future. If you’re one of the few lucky business owners whose employees all use the same device—or use them for basic tasks like email and managing contacts—you’ll have an easier time than someone whose employees use a mix of devices for a wider range of tasks. MDM will obviously require more attention in the second scenario.
List all the devices used in your company—both in-house and BYOD—on a spreadsheet. Include serial and model numbers. Also list all company applications and operating systems your employees use. Your MDM plan should include every piece of hardware and software on the list.
2. Evaluate MDM Platforms
While many MDM platforms currently on the market are geared toward large enterprises, a growing number are designed to meet the mobile security needs of small businesses, such as AT&T Mobile Device Management solutions. This video gives an overview of how they work.
These platforms support multiple operating systems and allow users to remotely configure email, Wi-Fi, and Virtual Private Networks, helping you ensure that employees access company assets securely. The platforms also make it easy to remotely lock and erase data from missing devices and to distribute and update mobile apps, which can be a big plus if your staff relies on certain apps to do their work.
Evaluate several platforms to find the one that best meets your needs. For example, you may want a provider that will host and manage the platform so you don’t have to install or maintain hardware on premises.
3. Create a Policy and Follow It
Using an MDM platform is a good start, but you need to have clear guidelines for your team to follow. I know of a business owner who adopted a platform but still had a security problem come up simply because he didn’t alert and train his staff.
Key points for any mobile device security policy include:
- Use complex passwords.I’m always surprised by how many smartphone owners don’t lock their devices. Be sure your employees use passwords that aren’t easy to guess.
- Encrypt your data. You may want to provide apps so employees can encode sensitive information. Be sure you select an app that is regularly updated to take advantage of improving encryption techniques.
- Connect to secure Wi-Fi networks. Tell your staff not to use public networks. Yes, this means no logging in from the neighborhood coffee shop. These networks—particularly ones that aren’t password-protected—are prime targets for hackers who are just waiting to steal your data.
- Keep business and personal use separate. Consider an app that lets employees create separate spaces on their devices for work-related email, calendars, apps, and personal content. This can give them privacy while letting you manage their access to company resources.
- Respond immediately when a device goes missing. If a smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen, remotely lock or wipe the data that’s on it with apps like this one and alert the authorities. Track the device using GPS if your MDM platform has this capability.
You can find more tips in the Guard Your Small Business Against Mobile Threats video:
Once you implement an MDM strategy, poll your employees regularly to know they are following it properly.