In the run-up to Christmas 2012, British shoppers reportedly bought a tablet computer every second. This means that many of your staff are likely to have a new, shiny device that they may want to use in work, as well as at home.
Bring your own device - or BYOD as it’s known - is becoming increasingly popular, not just in relation to tablets, but also personal computers, smartphones (BlackBerry) and book storage devices.
Why is BYOD popular? Well, there are benefits for employers in allowing employees to use their own technology as it means up-to-date IT without the associated overheads, as the employer gets the benefit of the newest technology without having to pay for it.
And for employees, they get to use their technology of choice, which makes them happy and potentially more productive.
Research by enterprise mobility vendor iPass of 1,100 tablet-using workers worldwide, showed that those who use mobile devices for both work and personal issues put in 240 more hours per year than those who do not. By having access to work data when outside the office, employees are more likely to work outside of office hours.
However, the benefits of allowing the use of personal devices within your business brings with it some risks that need to be addressed. To embrace the benefits of BYOD there are some things you need to consider and actions to be taken.
So what’s first? Firstly, remote device management – do you want to restrict the type of device or allow all. Once you’ve decided, you need to think about policies to block unprotected devices so your network is open only to appropriate devices.
Think about the risks as they relate to your legal business – for example confidentiality of client data, ownership of data and data protection issues. If cloud storage is involved, then is data stored in or out of the UK?
Other issues you may want to think about are application control: can any and all apps be used or are there some you want to restrict access to? Other important issues are compliance and audit, data and device encryption, using the cloud, removal of data, preventing access when an employee leaves or is dismissed, enforcement and monitoring of the policy.
Once you’ve identified the risks, you can create and implement a policy that deals with the issues as they relate to your business. But you will also need to decide at the outset how you will audit and review the policy, as the mobile handheld device market is evolving rapidly and policies set today are likely to be outdated in a few months’ time.
For some of you, the risks may seem to outweigh the benefits, but international technology researcher Gartner predicts that by 2014, 90% of organisations will support corporate applications on devices owned by workers, so it’s likely to be a shift that may prove difficult to avoid.
It’s certainly worth exploring the benefits of reducing cost and increasing productivity, provided you also put the time into making BYOD safe and secure for you, your employees and your clients.
Jeanette Lucy is the director for compliance, quality and learning with law firm network LawNet