By Sam Rafuse.
With an increasing amount of the UK workforce going mobile – both in terms of their working device and location – there has never been more of a concern regarding the protection of company data. As Microsoft state, “flexibility is important, but security is essential”. While organisations strive to meet the desires and requirements of their staff, can it ever be at the expense of data security?
The answer to the question is not as simple as deciding which is more of an important asset – your staff or your company data – as, ultimately, an organisation is worthless without either. Luckily, there is no need to have to answer that question. An organisation’s priorities should be to keep their data protected and secure while ensuring their employees are happy and largely unaffected by safeguarding measures. Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite ensures that employees can work on any device in any place with the same security as if they were sat in their office with their work-provided device.
Keeping Employees Happy
Much has been made of the positive correlation between happiness among your workforce and their productivity. Many organisations have conducted extensive research and experiments on productivity while also spending large sums of money in the process, it has been discovered that the ‘secret’ is to keep your staff happy.
A study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happy staff can be up to 12% more productive whereas staff that are unhappy can be less productive by 10%. One of the Professors leading the research, Dr. Daniel Sgroi, concluded that “the driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.”
It is easy to say that you should keep your employees happy, but how do you do it?
Microsoft’s Chief Envisioning Officer, Dave Coplin, stated that “people don’t need to be shackled to their desks to be productive or to collaborate with their colleagues. Work should be a thing you do not a place you go.” This is supported by a Microsoft study of 1,000 British workers which found that 80% of employees at SMEs who had requested flexible working arrangements claimed that it had a positive influence on their work. 33% of these workers felt that fewer distractions aided their productivity, and this clearly demonstrates how flexible working can be beneficial to employers as well as employees.
This is supported by a Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) study which found that 92% of the 1,272 British workers that they surveyed believed that their time management would be more effective, should they be able to have flexible working arrangements. This provides another clear benefit to employers as it would ensure that their employees were more efficient in their working hours and thus would be able to allot more of their time to their work responsibilities.
Many employees see flexible approaches to working as an essential component of their working life. This goes hand in hand with being able to have full access to every resource that they otherwise would have had if they were in the office.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
In 2009, BlackBerry held close to a 50% market share in the smartphone space with a valuation of $55bn. They were very much leading a market in an era where accessing your email on-the-go was becoming mandatory. As the market has changed due to technological advancements at an ever-increasing speed, it became an ‘adapt or die’ situation for which BlackBerry failed to adapt. As a result of this, they saw their market share fall to less than 3% and eventually agreed to a $4.7bn takeover deal just four years later.
This is merely one example of the consumerisation of IT from the early-to-mid 2000s. Since that period, devices have continually become more technologically advanced. Prices have become cheaper and, perhaps most importantly, consumers have more choice and variety than ever. While this is great news for consumers, it has created a headache for many of their employers. Organisations everywhere now face the perceived problem of employees becoming disgruntled with their company-issued devices as a result of a preference for their own personal devices.
Since 2012, BYOD has been a buzzword. Yet, it has remained more than just a fad. To reflect this, the level of searches online for BYOD has had a somewhat steep rise:
Nearly all employees are, at least, provided with a laptop or desktop computer at their place of work. Yet, gone are the days where employees work on merely one device; research by Gartner has led them to expect “mature market users to use three to four personal devices” by 2018. In addition, an Intel Security study found that “78% of UK professionals now use their personal devices for work-related activities”, while 57% of IT managers believe employees are doing this without consent. Yet, RapidScale research discovered that “60% of organisations already have mobility policies in place” in order to support BYOD, displaying that many are embracing BYOD to at least some extent.
Analysis conducted by Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) revealed that an average BYOD user will save at least 37 minutes each week by using their own device. From the six countries analysed, the United States of America displayed the greatest benefit of BYOD policies, where their users saved 81 minutes per week on average. Across an organisation’s workforce, this saving in time per employee and their increased output could be extremely beneficial to them.
Have your flexible working and BYOD concerns eased
You would imagine that most organisations would do what they can to keep their employees happy if given the opportunity to. Equally, their security and their confidential data remains paramount to their business integrity. It is natural to be apprehensive at the idea of data being transported out of the workplace but, to an extent, they are almost powerless to stop it happening. Accenture’s Digital Consumer Survey 2016, which polled 28,000 consumers in 28 countries, revealed that 80% of consumers own a smartphone while research from Blue Hornet found that 67.2% of consumers use a smartphone to check their email. In addition, Osterman Research discovered that 61% of email users have admitted to sending unencrypted confidential information via email. This is just one example of the risks that organisations face when attempting to safeguard mobile security.
While those statistics are perhaps not entirely surprising, they should at least be concerning. Should data or even devices fall into the wrong hands, it could be lead to serious consequences for your organisation.
Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) – keeping organisations happy and safe
Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite provides organisations with the confidence and assurance that their data can be secure and protected at all times. EMS is a combination of Microsoft cloud services that allow organisations to have protected access to data on any device, no matter where they are.
Simply put, using Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AAD) Premium allows employees who should be able to access certain data to do so, while it prevents access to those should not. Employees have a single sign-on across any device to access thousands of cloud and on-premises apps while maintaining a consistent identity across them through Microsoft Identity Manager (MIM). Organisations and their employees’ data is protected through rules-based Multi-Factor Authentication, whereby it adds a critical second layer of security to user sign-ins and transactions by requiring the use of more than one verification method. Microsoft Cloud App Security brings your on-premises security into the cloud and provides both the visibility and control that allows for equilibrium between ease of access and data protection. This not only makes flexible working and BYOD even easier – it ensures that company data is protected no matter where it is while also allowing employees to access the same apps and files regardless of wherever they are in the world.
Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) uses deep packet inspection technology in monitoring and analysing AAD-related traffic in order to identify inconsistent user and device activity. The sophistication of the technology allows for it to not only provide clear information regarding security threats but is also able to detect impending attacks in near real time. It provides a quick and easy way to understand your network while giving visibility of threats both present and future.
Microsoft Intune allows employees more freedom to use the devices and apps that they desire in order to aid their productivity without compromising their employer’s security. Organisations are able to remotely remove corporate data and apps from devices, should the device itself be lost or stolen or an employee leaves the business. This aids both flexible working and BYOD as the capabilities of Intune essentially remove the major security concerns that are attached to them in terms of loss of device and recovery of data. In addition, the organisation’s remote access control allows them to keep all devices up-to-date with the latest software updates.
Microsoft Azure Rights Management Services (RMS) provides rights management capabilities for Office 365 and allows files to stay secure regardless of where they are located via password protection. Even if information is transferred via email, the file’s owner has the capabilities to prevent the viewing, editing and forwarding of information. In addition, this can also be restricted from being edited, copied and printed. This ensures that data can always be secured, regardless of location or device.
Microsoft’s Azure RemoteApp enables employees to take their Windows desktop environment with them wherever they are on any device. The desktop and application virtualisation capabilities of Azure RemoteApp makes programs and apps that are remotely accessed appear as though they are running on the local device. Organisations can upload and host their apps in the cloud and provide remote access to them to their employees through shareable hosting sessions. As the virtualised desktops and apps are hosted in the cloud and never stored on devices, this negates the potential loss of lost or compromised data, while employees are able to take their familiar workspace with them wherever they are on their preferred device.
To summarise, organisations are following Microsoft’s lead in believing that “flexibility is important, but security is essential”. Many are searching for how they can maintain the highest levels of security without adversely affecting the operations of their employees. Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite provides exactly that for organisations over the world by providing solutions to meet the concerns surrounding safety of data and the ever-increasing mobility of today’s workforce – both in terms of device and location. EMS allows for employees to work on any device in any location while organisations can have the assurances that company data is always protected, recoverable and also removable should a device or file fall into the wrong hands. Not only does EMS prevent disruption to employees, it both aids their productivity and provides the flexibility that supports their happiness at work.