Guest post: Company phone – R.I.P

iPad in the office

So, you think with your new job you’re going to get a sleek new company phone?

Think again.

Company-issued phones are becoming as much a relic of the past as the company car and the Nokia 6210.

A huge transformation is taking place across the mobility market. Shiny new smartphones and now tablets are replacing mobiles and laptops. Laden with apps from Angry Birds to Dropbox, the consumer’s device of choice is increasingly also the foundation of their employer’s mobility strategy.

Previously, IT managers used to control and manage every device connected to their network. Now they’re faced with an invasion of personal mobile devices.

Surprisingly, however, many companies are actually encouraging workers to use their personal smartphones and tablets at work.

This trend was validated by a survey that was recently conducted by Good Technology. In it, we found that fully 70% of our customers were actively supporting what we call "Bring Your Own Device".

Their logic seems simple enough: why ‘double-down’ on devices when workers are already packing an iPhone? They tell us it’s cheaper, allows them to mobilise a bigger percentage of their staff and improves employee satisfaction.

A win-win perhaps. But it’s not without risks.

First, device management becomes exponentially more complex. With company phones, IT managers were dealing with a known and controlled commodity – usually one brand of phone with one carrier on one platform. Easy enough…while it lasted.

Now, with the mobile space even more fragmented, with dozens of hardware brands (Samsung, Nokia, iPhone, Motorola, HTC, LG, Blackberry), different software platforms (Windows, Android, Apple) and carrier services (insert one of dozens of brands here), IT managers are faced with a virtual telecom "pick ‘n mix".

It goes without saying that this is a huge challenge in terms of mobile management, resources and cost.

Second, mobile security becomes more critical. Corporate-issued phones were in many ways the mobile version of the burly security guard standing in the reception lobby. Sure, they were inflexible, unyielding and intransigent, but nothing was getting in that wasn’t supposed to.

Today’s smartphones are designed to promote productivity, agility and innovation, but in doing so are perceived by IT as much less secure than their predecessors.

It’s interesting to note that the threat to security isn’t necessarily coming from where you might think.

We’ve all read about the various hacker organisations out there practising their dark arts, and they do need to be taken seriously.

However the bigger risk is much closer to home. It’s from the well- intentioned user: Charles in Sales, Hannah in Accounting, or Chloe in Marketing with their smartphones and productivity apps.

They all represent a much more prevalent threat to data loss. As soon as one of them moves this month’s sales forecast to the cloud so they can download it to their iPad on the train home, your business-critical, company-confidential data is effectively in the public domain.

Enabling companies and employees to enjoy the benefits of BYOD whilst separating the business information from personal use is the latest challenge to face us as we increasingly become a knowledge worker economy.

Get it right, and you’re a hero. Get it wrong and you take the company down with you. If that happens, at least you’ll have time to practice Angry Birds.

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