Using mobile devices in SMBs today is not a question of “if”, but of “how?” According to the 2012 State of Mobility Survey from Symantec, businesses are at the point where they no longer feel they can get business done without them. “We have reached a tipping point in the business use of mobile devices” is how the survey expresses the challenge for businesses to deal with a mobile devices situation that has caught them unawares.
The proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers is undeniable. CJ Desai, senior vice president, Endpoint and Mobility Group, Symantec, says “We are impressed by the pace of mobile application adoption within organizations.” One big reason for their popularity is the increase in productivity they offer for employees in the office or on the road. It all adds up to increased reactivity for SMBs, which is a key weapon in their arsenal for competing with larger enterprises.
However, there are both risks and costs associated with this new wave of computing. The biggest concern voiced by companies is the security risk. When mobile devices carry information outside the office, data security breaches are not far behind. Potential damage includes loss or abuse of sensitive information, negative impact on brands and problems with intellectual property.
Symantec offers some “best practice” advice in the form of a five point plan to help organizations respond effectively to this situation:
- Make a strategic assessment. Be realistic (go beyond e-mail) about how mobile devices will be used in your organization
- Enable across the board. Make priorities out of mainstream business applications and an appropriate support structure
- Manage efficiently. Companies have already developed unified policies for PCs, and can leverage them for mobile devices
- Lay down the right rules. As employees bring their own mobile devices, acceptable usage policies will have to be adapted accordingly
- Secure your information. How it is transmitted, but also what is transmitted. Define data access policies based on the type of device that is accessing the information.
The survey also gives figures for losses caused by the use of mobile devices, as evaluated by both large and small businesses. Compared to a figure of $429,000 from large companies, small businesses reckoned on an average loss of $126,000 – more than enough to motivate IT departments across the board to fight back with appropriate security measures.