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Four ways companies can secure devices in the remote workforce

(Image credit: Image Credit: Andrea Danti / Shutterstock)

Enabling remote work while minimizing downtime and disruption to organizational productivity has become a leadership challenge for organizations, especially over the past 18 months during the global pandemic. In fact, when it comes to managing remote devices within a company, even the largest tech corporations have fallen to cybersecurity breaches and device downtime.

It’s become clear the remote workforce is more permanent than originally expected and companies must now look to enhance their remote workforce security and “Bring Your Own Device'' (BYOD) strategies to ensure they remain competitive for the long term. Here are four ways leaders can look at remote working and open Internet-connected devices to ensure business continuity and security as more employees work from home.

Secure corporate and employee-owned devices

During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, employees either began working from home or followed some form of hybrid home-office work model. From then on, employees have been communicating in an open home environment not intended for corporate usage. Organizations did not have time to plan and adapt to this surge, nor to extend their remote access and IT support to their employees at such a rapid speed.

Leaders soon realized the need to properly set up and manage remote devices by location and the need to push out apps to handle immediate tasks and security software patches. Failure to do so has resulted in device downtime and decreased employee productivity. In fact, according to SOTI’s 2021 Mobilizing the Delivery Workforce Report, transportation and logistics organizations – who are struggling to keep up with changing consumer shopping habits and supply chain strains during the pandemic – reported losing more than 3 hours per employee each workweek dealing with device downtime, whether out in the field or for operations.

It is clear using personal laptops and smartphones as key company communication tools is often not a temporary solution for start-ups and for organizations that may embrace BYOD policies. Leaders need a solution that reduces the exposure of corporate networks and therefore reducing employee downtime. Adopting Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions for employees’ devices increases the coverage and protection of corporate networks, ensures all devices are running the latest software and reduces putting sensitive data at risk.

Create a secure device framework of compliance

Personal devices are often accessing and streaming information that can be restricted, or often classified within corporate networks. However, this process is not easy to manage when employees are working remotely, and leaders are still relying on outdated technology and processes. Employees using personal applications as well as accessing blogs and celebrity news stories on personal devices can create an ‘open door’ security risk to a corporate network if not securely managed. Adopting a lockdown feature is highly encouraged to reduce data security risks and exposure.

A Mobile Device Management (MDM) console and strategy enables BYOD devices to be used with confidence, especially when employees carry sensitive company information in and out of the office, regularly connect to a range of external Wi-Fi hot spots and are increasingly working remotely. This leads end-users to be concerned about the access within their corporation via GPS and personal data. 

For example, if you are working in transportation and logistics, GPS tracking is essential to update customers on order statuses. But in terms of office workers and tracking where they are, this is generally not a feature that is often selected by IT teams nor is it a feature that employees would likely consent to their employer collecting data from, especially not on a BYOD used for work purposes. 

However, application data is of value and allows organizations to drive investment decisions, analyze usage and even the peak times at which they are accessed to help drive greater network performance. Equally, an organization may wish to restrict access to certain applications if they are deemed a security risk to the network. Adding these applications to a prohibited list in the MDM provides peace of mind for IT security teams and helps avoid costly breaches or ransomware attacks further down the field. 

Remotely manage device scalability

Scalability of device configuration and deployment is often complex and never static. Companies need solutions to secure and wipe devices, remove devices from the network for extended periods and redeploy devices from one staff member to the next, all while handling sensitive corporate data on personal devices.

Wiping a device if it’s stolen or lost can be a real IT and corporate data sensitivity headache. IT administrators would need to wipe an entire device in seconds, yet they have no support on how to do this instantly. If an application or access rights to an application is required for a specific project timeframe, a group of devices can be auto wiped altogether after a specific time has passed. This is useful for time-bound projects and critical sensitive information removal from shared areas.

Groups of devices can also be closed for use outside of a corporate network. Such devices can only be used by employees whilst connected to a secured network with secured access to a range of applications limited to that device for that user. This is where a simple drag and drop functionality via an MDM console makes it easy to manage and update multiple devices as organizations require change.

Remotely support employees to minimize downtime and frustrations

With both IT and non-IT employees working from home, it is exceedingly more difficult to understand technical issues with a device that’s not running properly. Employees cannot be expected to understand device-specific issues, so companies need remote IT solutions to resolve technical difficulties quickly and efficiently. Leaders should look for a technology provider that:

  • Offers predictive operational intelligence, capturing key metrics about what’s happening across the entire range of mobile devices over time. This enables IT to spot and mitigate problems before they become widespread and cause downtime.
  • Features a “device snapshot” capability to capture the full state of the device and answer every question an engineer might ask an employee about the state of the device, including how much memory it had when the problem arose, how much storage, how much battery power, etc.
  • Evaluates efficiency. With enough integrated data from enough devices, leaders can learn which individual device type maximize productivity and eliminate downtime for employees.

Shash Anand, Vice President of Product Strategy, SOTI

Shash Anand, Vice President of Product Strategy, SOTI