Kevin Meager – Olive Communications
BYOD and the Cloud are both buzzword trends right now, but neither is particularly new. The Cloud has been around as long as the internet itself, and people have used their own devices for a long time too – you may remember putting syncing your contacts to a ‘Palm Pilot’! What’s changed is that both technologies are now prevalent, mass market, connected by wi-fi rather than cable, and therefore what IT people call ‘frictionless’ – i.e. ridiculously easy.
Anyone can do it, and that’s why the perceived risk of insecurity with BYOD is greater. IT people aren’t being spoil-sports: BYOD is fabulously powerful, but it can mean that both employers and any IT Support they may have completely relinquishing control over the corporate network, and that’s an open invitation to hackers.
The ideal outcome is therefore to get the benefits of BYOD – better, faster business from happier employees– whilst keeping enough control to minimise the security mistakes that untrained people can make. This is where cloud services like Office 365 and Windows Intune are useful. With Cloud tools, you can have many of the security functions and policies of a server without the maintenance price tag which so many smaller companies found prohibitive (and therefore lived without). With Office 365, you can block unauthorised or hopelessly insecure devices. You can make sure that mobile devices are password protected; essential if they get lost – which they do. It allows business owners and employers to maintain at least some control over connected devices.
Another function of professional Cloud services in bringing control back into the business is in reducing the use of mobile Apps. There is a huge proliferation of messenger and file storage Apps – there are literally thousands on the market. Many are free, and we think they’re safe because they’ve passed the test to be allowed onto a manufacturer’s App Store. But the legal position regarding personal or company-confidential data may be very different indeed.
An unauthorised App could be storing personal data about customers on a system which doesn’t conform to the Data Protection Act at all. It could be hosted in a wholly unregulated country. If, instead, you store your information in the Microsoft Cloud using Skydrive Pro or in a SharePoint Workspace using Office 365, you absolutely know that the data storage is compliant with EU Safe Harbour laws. By setting up Office 365, it’s the business, rather than the non-expert employee, who chooses where file storage and use happens.
In the same vein, sometimes even when a paid App is up to scratch, the free version of an App will have no encryption of information when stored or transmitted. Employees obviously like free Apps, and in any case, we expect to use free Apps to ‘try out the service’ anyway. Again, by giving employees secure cloud tools of the company’s choosing, the temptation and risk are very much reduced.
Employees (and managers!) are always going to make mistakes. Wise Cloud decisions, however, can minimise those mistakes by keeping a modicum of control within the company’s four walls; all at manageable and predictable cost and with plenty of productivity benefits, too.