Left to your own devices: BYOD is becoming more prevalent in workplaces.Photo: iStock
Bringing your own possessions into the workplace is one of those creature comforts you simply expect as an employee. A framed picture of your family, a coffee mug with a funny slogan on it, maybe some knick-knacks to brighten up your workspace.
Personal electronics such as smartphones and tablets, however, are a different story. The latest research from back-up and online storage vendor Acronis shows that while most organisations in Australia allow staff to bring their own devices into the workplace - a practice known as BYOD, or bring your own device - a third do not.
The report, which surveyed 4300 IT professionals in eight countries, including 390 in Australia, also found that most Australian companies do not have secure BYOD policies to protect corporate data.
"Generally, employees are expecting to be able to bring their own devices and be able to connect them to the network," Simon Howe, Asia-Pacific sales director of mobility solutions at Acronis says. "But one of the key findings from the research is that most organisations don't have any kind of policy in place around BYOD."
The danger is when staff-owned devices are mislaid or affected by malware, potentially exposing any confidential data that is stored on the device such as financial reports and customer information.
With the sharp increase in cases of corporate data leakage hitting the headlines - many of which are due to laptops and other mobile devices being lost or stolen - there can be a huge cost to organisations from both a brand and a monetary perspective, Howe says.
"These smartphones and tablets have access to corporate data, and they need to be secured. What we're seeing is that while organisations have quickly understood the productivity benefits of BYOD, they haven't completely understood the risks and the challenges."
Implementing a BYOD policy is not difficult. Simple security measures such as enforcing a device password or using remote wipe can make an enormous difference, as can staff training.
The Acronis survey found 79 per cent of organisations in Australia are not training their staff on appropriate use of their devices on the network. "Training is a very simple, cost-effective and straightforward mechanism, and most organisations aren't even doing that," Howe says.
Geoff Quattromani, IT co-ordinator for a large multinational medical organisation, says his company's decision to support BYOD was largely driven by its staff.
"Thirty per cent of our sales force were already using their own iPads to carry brochures and marketing materials on the road,'' he says. ''This was when the original iPad was released. By the time the iPad 2 came out, the number of sales force using iPads jumped to 70 per cent. They were buying them with their own money for work purposes, so we really had no choice but to officially support them."
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