By Jon Kuhn, Director of Product Management, Enterprise Mobility Group, Symantec
By taking a glance around in any public place, it becomes obvious the effect mobility is having on the world. People are able to connect in more ways than we could conceive of, even just a few years ago. It’s no surprise that businesses are beginning to take advantage of this connectivity in an effort to increase productivity and improve customer service. The mobile workforce is growing every year, and increasingly powerful devices such as smartphones and tablets mean that employees are always accessible and able to get things done at a moment’s notice.
Mobility presents organizations with a unique set of risks and benefits. In order to determine just where companies are coping with this trend, Symantec commissioned a study of more than 6,000 businesses of all sizes. The results show that mobile adoption is high, but the increased productivity comes at a cost.
First, mobile devices have been fully accepted as mainstream business tools. More than half of businesses are allowing employees to access line-of-business applications on their mobile devices. Moreover, nearly three-quarters are actually considering implementing a corporate “store” for employees to download officially approved applications.
Along with the productivity, however, mobility is impacting IT in other ways. It’s requiring significant resources to manage properly – nearly one-third of IT staff is involved in mobile computing, and nearly half of businesses report that it is “somewhat to extremely challenging.” Overall, organizations classify mobility as the IT initiative with the greatest risk, given such dangers as spam, phishing and malware. In particular, they are worried about losing devices, data leakage and unauthorized individuals gaining access to their resources.
These concerns are justified, considering what mobile-related security incidents are costing businesses. They are seeing brand damage, loss of customer trust, theft of data and direct financial loss. Overall, small businesses report losses of $126,000 in the past 12 months; for enterprises, this number jumps to $429,000, making the overall average $247,000.
Despite the challenges, however, organizations are not looking back. Nearly three-quarters believe that they at least break even in terms of the risk compared to benefits.
In order to successfully navigate the risks and more fully realize the benefits of mobile computing, Symantec has developed the following recommendations:
- Enable broadly: Develop a comprehensive plan to take maximum advantage of mobility, and take a logical, phased approach to integration. It will be nearly impossible to completely prevent employees from using mobile devices for business, but by being proactive you can exercise control over how that happens.
- Think strategically: Consider your end goals in mobile device use and plan accordingly. Ensure that confidential information will be secure regardless of where it is stored.
- Manage efficiently: Treat mobile devices like any other endpoint. They need to be effectively managed from provisioning through device retirement, to keep data secure. Integrate mobile devices into your IT policies.
- Enforce appropriately: Develop use policies managing employee behavior, implementing the proper controls based on each user’s needs. Give them the tools they need to work efficiently, while minimizing the potential for problems.
- Secure comprehensively: Basic controls such as passwords aren’t enough. Supplement traditional practices with mobile-specific security solutions such as encryption and data loss prevention tools to maintain a consistent level of security and ensure regulatory compliance.