Choosing the right mobile strategy to protect your business

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Choosing the right mobile strategy to protect your business

Make sure you don't lose data or customers by setting the right policies for the use of mobile devices in your business.

There’s a saying much loved by insurance salespeople: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” That applies to your business’s mobility policy.

Let’s be realistic: in the absence of a policy, your staff are likely to use their own phones for work purposes.

For some roles, that might not be an issue. But if a salesperson leaves your business, you don’t want your customers to continue to ring him or her, as that could mean you lose them to a competitor. And can you be sure that your data is safe if an employee loses their phone?

So you probably need a formal policy – and this can based on four mobility strategies that are widely used by businesses:

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) means what it says: employees use their personal phones, tablets or notebooks when they are at work.
  • Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) means employees choose from an approved list of devices, and they usually buy and own the devices.
  • Company Issued, Personally Enabled (COPE): the employer provides the device, but employees are allowed to use it for private activities.
  • Company Owned, Business Only (COBO) is a relatively uncommon approach for phones and tablets, but is sometimes seen with notebooks. The company selects and pays for the hardware, and forbids non-work use.

BYOD, CYOD, COPE or COBO?

Different strategies suit different situations. If an employee only needs a device to find out what shifts they are working, a BYOD strategy should suffice, and there’s no obvious reason why the employer should subsidise the cost because the use is essentially private.

However, if you have salespeople, service engineers or other roles that spend a lot of time out and about on company business, it’s hard to argue that the company shouldn’t carry most of the cost – in which case, you could adopt a BYOD or CYOD program, subsidising at least part of employees’ ongoing costs.

If staff are actively using business systems such as CRM, ordering or job allocation, you need to make sure their devices actually work with the required apps. That probably means adopting a CYOD program, even if the list of acceptable devices is as open as an “iPhone 6 or later, or a phone running Android 6 (Marshmallow) or later.”

To keep things simple, you might move to COPE program. If everyone’s using the same or at least similar phones, that makes it easy to keep a spare handset on hand in case of loss or damage. If you pay for phone and monthly bills, that allows you to tell staff what amount of personal use is acceptable.

One variant of this is that you provide employees with SIMs, allowing them to buy their own device but covering the cost of their mobile plans, usually with some restrictions on personal use.

Alternatively, you might consider going the whole hog and opting for a COBO strategy, but it’s not easy to enforce unless you also adopt a mobile device management (MDM) system to prevent the installation of unapproved apps. You’d probably also want a system for checking phone bills for private activity.

Thankfully, the provision of a mobile phone, tablet or notebook is – subject to certain conditions – exempt from Fringe Benefits Tax, according to the ATO.

Securing your business data

In fact, an MDM system is worth considering, even if you adopt a BYOD, CYOD or COPE strategy, to ensure your business data remains secure.

It’s accepted practice to bring in reasonable usage policies even for a BYOD program. And one of those policies could be the installation of an MDM or other security app for any device that accesses business data such as email – even if it’s only for remote locking or wiping the device if it’s lost or stolen.

If you make a significant contribution to the upfront or ongoing costs, you have more justification for insisting that employee-owned devices are enrolled in your MDM system with more security controls – such as ensuring business apps store the data securely and in a way that’s isolated from other software.

Planning for employee departures

If you are concerned about losing customers or data if an employee leaves the company, you could adopt a COBO program or provide a SIM. Then make sure you recover the phone or SIM before they leave your employment, and give it to their successor.

MNF Group – the company behind VoIP, mobile and broadband provider MyNetFone – has come up with another potential option. This system would allow it to offer virtual mobile numbers that (among other purposes) could be ‘owned’ by businesses and then linked to whichever real number is appropriate at the time, without the expense of redirecting each call.

Unfortunately, the introduction of such a service has been stymied because “the major telcos are refusing to recognise calls to and from virtual mobile numbers for apparent commercial reasons,” according to MNF co-founder and CEO Rene Sugo. 

Coming soon: we'll examine what you need to look for in an MDM system.

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