What comes first, 4G or the policy? A look at 4G and its effect on remote access for business

Following the recently announced winners of the 2013 UK spectrum auctions, most mobile operators will almost certainly follow in the footsteps of Everything Everywhere and launch their own 4G networks in the coming months - leading to increased availability of mobile internet, faster connection speeds, and an increasingly mobile individual.

This increased connectivity will not just impact on society as consumers, but also as employees. 4G will likely lead to an even greater demand for businesses to offer more flexible working practices and access to the organisation’s networks remotely using corporate and more so personally-owned mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Recent research, carried out by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by SecureData, revealed that in fact over 80 per cent of organisations expect to see an increase in employees requesting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) schemes to take advantage of the faster connections and higher availability offered by advanced technologies such as 4G.

This begs the question - are businesses and their IT departments prepared for this outcome and the extra security risks that increased access via 4G could bring?

Yet despite the fact that organisations are recognising that with BYOD and the advancement of technologies such as 4G even more employees will look to access their networks remotely, and that these changes will create more security risks, over 60 per cent of organisations still do not have BYOD or remote access policies in place.

Those that do are often not fully prepared due to the sheer number of employees wanting to access the network remotely. Furthermore, up to 67 per cent of businesses have no specific budget assigned to deal with the ongoing security risks associated with remote access, and most of those that do, only have budget available to deal with reactive issues.

By not providing the appropriate policy and framework for employees to use personal devices and without staff buy-in, companies open themselves up to even bigger risks as employees find their own ways of transferring work to devices or enabling remote working, using methods which are often very risky. It is vital that employees are educated on the policy in order to avoid any confusion and accidents leading to security breaches.

Having a BYOD scheme in place means that companies can both create cost savings as well as satisfy employee demand for flexibility; enabling rich mobile working at the same time as ensuring compliance and the safety of business data.

Those companies that are waiting to see the impact 4G will have before implementing any kind of policy will fundamentally leave the organisation vulnerable to more security risks. It is vital that remote access is fully supported on an ongoing basis.

If this is something a business struggles to do internally, then it needs to look at outsourcing or managed services to implement a policy and its ongoing management. Smartphones and tablet devices are not going away and neither is the risk to corporate data held on these devices.

You can review the research mentioned in this article, “Remote Access: the future of the workforce” at www.secdata.com/ITSecurityExperts/ThoughtLeadership

Alan Carter is solutions consultant for SecureData, an independent I.T. security service provider that provides consultancy, support, installation and management solutions.