News last week that staff at the BBC had £750,000 worth of gadgets lost or stolen since 2010, including laptops, tablets and mobile phones, highlights a growing issue that many companies are facing – the security of their data. The cost of replacing these expensive gadgets is one thing, however, the risk of sensitive data could get into the wrong hands, as well as the cost of restoring lost data, is even more of a problem.
There is a growing trend for people to use multiple devices for accessing information, including their work documents. Gartner[i] predicted last year that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide, and by 2015, media tablet shipments will constitute 50% of laptop shipments. This shift in how people access their data means businesses need to consider how they can offer their employees the facilities to switch between devices and bring their own devices to work; as well as how they can protect the security of their data should any devices be lost or stolen.
Business data time bomb
According to Sony’s VAIO Digital Business report 2013[ii] the million laptops that have gone missing in the past year are a ‘business data time bomb’. The report polled IT leaders at 600 UK businesses and blames ‘bring your own device practices, poor security habits and a rebel workforce’.
The report highlights that many businesses are failing to make use of existing security technologies to keep pace with rapidly changing working practices. Data security was ranked as very important by 75% of respondents and loss of confidential company data was identified as the number one concern of nearly half of respondents. Interestingly, the report also highlights that even if there is a company policy for not using personal devices for accessing company information, many individuals ignore this, with 90% admitting to doing it, and two-thirds admitting saving confidential business data on their laptops.
Virtual desktop solution through the cloud
So what can businesses do to make sure their company data is safe? One solution is to move your IT into the cloud. Remote working is increasingly being enabled by technologies such as virtual desktop solutions which allow people to work from any location in the world and access their emails, files and desktops using any device. Increasingly businesses are going down this route as it’s easier for employees to use multiple devices for work and it also ensures data security.
Using a hosted desktop provider means that data is not stored on any devices but, instead securely stored at the datacentre of the provider. Information is kept centrally, which eradicates the security risks if laptops, tablets or mobile phones are stolen or lost. It also pre-empts employee behaviour which would suggest many are already using their own devices to access company information.
Increasingly, this is the way many employees wish to work as the boundaries between home and office life are becoming ever more blurred. For instance an employee may want to finish off some work off at home on a laptop or work from home now and again. Also if employees are regularly out of the office it makes accessing company data and working from any location much easier.
Businesses are attracted to the cloud because it allows greater workforce flexibility, but there are also cost savings, with reduced investment in IT and less administration. This solution also allows companies to safely introduce a ‘bring your own device to work policy’. With a hosted desktop solution no files or data are stored on devices, which lowers the security risks and employees can use their own devices to access their work desktops and switch between their personal and work data easily.
Considerations when moving to the cloud
There are of course some important considerations when deciding to change to a virtual desktop infrastructure, which involves outsourcing of data and the IT infrastructure, storage and security to a third party provider. As the provider will host and manage all the IT, the data backup, disaster and recovery and help desk support – it must be a relationship of trust and finding the right provider for your business is crucial.
For companies to have confidence in the security of their data, they should work with an accredited cloud computing provider with a UK data centre to ensure security is watertight. Companies need to check for accreditations too such as ISO 9001, ISO 27001 for IT security and ISO 14001, which is focused on environmental standards.
Companies also need to be wary of the contracts they sign and read the small print. There have been cases of companies signing up to fixed term contracts only to have these revert back to the start date when a new user is added. Needless to say, such contracts should be avoided at all costs.
By moving to the cloud information is always kept centrally and helps to eradicate the security risks of stolen or lost devices. Businesses that choose this solution will also see themselves keeping pace with the ever changing complex world of technology as it’s the job of the provider to provide new software upgrades and security systems and potential threats. They will also save money in the long run, reduce their IT administration and offer their employees greater working flexibility.