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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Small Business: Are your employees secretly using mobile platforms?

A recent study by Dell and Intel study

A recent study by Dell and Intel study found that 43 percent of employees globally are secretly using personal devices for work without their companies knowing. So what should companies do about it? Photo Credit: iStock

Technology is rapidly changing the way people work -- sometimes even more rapidly than their companies realize.

Employees are using multiple devices and increasingly working outside traditional office settings, in some cases without employers' knowledge, according to a recent study by Dell and Intel.

"Data's mobile, and people are mobile," says Steve Lalla, vice president and general manager of cloud-client computing at Dell in Round Rock, Texas. "People have more pieces of glass than ever to interact with their companies and data."

More than half of employees who use desktops also use another device, such as a tablet or smartphone, the study notes. And employers may not always be aware.

The Dell-Intel study found that 43 percent of employees globally are secretly using personal devices for work without their companies knowing.

"They're not doing it to be malicious," Lalla explains. "They're doing it to do their job better."

PUT SAFEGUARDS IN PLACE

Employers need to ensure not only that all such devices are known and secured, but that access to information is managed.

They also need to make sure they're providing the right technology for the job.

One in four employees would consider taking a new position if provided with better technology that helped them be more productive, according to the study.

"The virtual workforce coupled with technology is the big equalizer," says Tim Houlne, CEO of Working Solutions, a Plano, Texas, virtual services management company and co-author of "The New World of Work" (Inspire on Purpose; $24.95). "The playing field is being leveled."

Companies must embrace the change to remain competitive, he says.

Millennials are entering the workforce who "are accustomed to dealing with multiple devices," says William Collins, president of NST Inc., an East Northport information technology firm. At its 300-plus client companies, "most if not all employees have multiple devices they're using for both work and pleasure," he notes.

WHO HAS ACCESS?

It's critical for companies to understand who and what is accessing their networks, Collins says. At NST clients, each employee must have software on his or her devices that allows the company to track access to its systems. Companies such as Soti and MaaS360 offer solutions for these purposes, Collins says.

If it's a company-issued device, companies should consider employing tools to wipe it clean remotely if necessary, says Adam Schwam, president of Sandwire Corp., a Farmingdale IT firm. Companies are employing global management tools such as Kaseya for these reasons, he notes.

Certain industries may need greater protections.

"There is a growing concern in the medical community about patient information and data being breached," Schwam says. "There's more regulatory pressure to protect data."

Still, "everybody wants remote access," he says. And it's not just to work on documents or files, but also to access proprietary applications, such as specialized software used by accountants.

This will become more prevalent as more employees work remotely and perceptions change. Notably, 52 percent of employees surveyed believe those working from home are just as productive or more productive then those in the office, according to the study.

This makes it even more important to have policies in place to control the flow of data and keep it secure, says Houlne, whose company has more than 4,000 independent contractors working remotely.

"Having a safe, secure environment for workers to work in a virtual environment is critical," he notes.

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