Yes You Can Connect Employees' Personal Smartphones
Discover why connecting employees' personal smartphones may suddenly make sense
Any IT person with a pulse knows that employees are flooding IT departments with requests to connect their personal smartphones to the company IT infrastructure. Notwithstanding the real productivity benefits from connected employees, until now many IT departments have turned down all such requests as a matter of policy. They calculated that the security and control risks outweighed the benefits from collaboration.
But the equation has suddenly changed with the introduction of the free BlackBerry® Enterprise Server Express, which ends the compromise around security, manageability, and cost—enabling organizations to confidently connect employee-owned BlackBerry® smartphones. Read on to discover what you need to know to connect employees' personal BlackBerry smartphones and how BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express can help.
When a trickle becomes a flood
How big is the employee-owned smartphone issue for IT managers? IDC reports that 80 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses already have employee-owned devices. And by 2013 IDC expects worldwide shipments of employee-owned devices to grow by 17.9 percent to reach 56.7 million units representing 56 percent of business smartphone shipments.
– Brian Reed, BoxTone
What is BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express?
BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a free download that provides the core mobility, security, and manageability features of the BlackBerry® Enterprise Server, but without the licensing and software costs. And not just through email, but with full wireless sync, remote file access, applications, and more.
When connected, here are a few of the things employees can do:
- Connect to work email with such advanced features as organizing and filing mail folders, setting follow-up flags, and search
- See work calendars and check the free/busy status of colleagues on the go, make appointments, and set reminders
- Look up work contacts, check addresses on the road, send emails, and place calls
- Access work applications and files from behind the network firewall
Works with any Internet-enabled BlackBerry data plan
Because most employees with personal BlackBerry smartphones pay for their own data plans, the majority will choose data plans that connect using an Internet-enabled BlackBerry data plan through their carrier. In most situations that is less expensive for the employee compared to paying for a full BlackBerry Enterprise data plan.
Until now, however, IT departments had no easy way to connect smartphones that were on an Internet-enabled BlackBerry data plan. But that is no longer a problem as the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express works with both Internet-enabled BlackBerry data plans and BlackBerry Enterprise data plans. As such, IT departments at organizations of all sizes now have an easy, low-cost way to connect employees' personal BlackBerry smartphones to the company IT infrastructure.
Virtually no net cost increases—for anyone
That means employees can keep their lower-cost data plans and still connect their personal BlackBerry smartphones to work email, calendar, applications, and so on.
The company, for its part, often does not pay for the employee's phone nor for his or her data plan. And because BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is free—the company pays nothing for the connection, but IT still gets the security and management it needs.
Planning: Questions to ask
So should your organization rush out to connect every employee who brings in his or her shiny new smartphone? First you may wish to ask a few questions. Brian Reed, chief marketing officer and VP of products for BoxTone, identifies a few:
- Is there an extra burden on IT? Will it be the proverbial death by 1,000 cuts when employees come in one by one asking to be connected?
- Budgeting? Who pays for the off-budget support costs to support employee-owned smartphones? Do all employees merit the same treatment?
- Support policies? What happens when an employee's email stops working? How does IT support them when the company does not own the device?
- Unsupported platforms? What about unsupported devices or platforms? Are you willing to support multiple platforms with the additional burdens and costs to IT? Or will your policy be to standardize on BlackBerry smartphones with all the benefits for management and security, but know you will have to say "no" when employees ask to be connected to other types of devices?
- It's my phone, why can't I do what I want? Employees may not want their own smartphones managed in the same way as a company-owned phone with standard IT policies. In those situations your company must weigh the risks and ask which is more important: the company's security policies or the employee's desire to not deal with restrictions applied to their own property.
Security policies vs. human nature
Even with the built-in security features of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, the law of unintended consequences means that security gaps will happen, so you must use policies and procedures to handle them. Clear, well-thought-out security best practices are the place to start, followed closely by configuring the security IT policies built into BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express.
Human nature is a key consideration here, as employees will inevitably bang against the system, ignore security best practices such as not writing down passwords, and do what they want despite your best efforts. Again, configuring the built-in security IT policies is the best way to save people from themselves. And many organizations make employees sign a policy agreement and include their best practices in employee handbooks and post them to the company intranet.
Who owns the data?
Another conflict comes from questions about who owns the data found on an employee-owned smartphone. Not the corporate data, which the company owns, but the personal address book, contacts, and so on. What happens when the employee decides to leave the company? This is an especially big issue for sales reps.
When an employee leaves, many organizations insist on wiping all data on smartphones, whether employee- or company-owned. Again a clear policy—agreed to beforehand—is key.
Note that IT policies in both BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express and BlackBerry Enterprise Server let you remotely wipe data from lost or stolen BlackBerry smartphones.
Unsupported platforms: Do you just say no?
Because IT departments want to standardize their supported devices, employees' unsupported personal smartphones pose a threat to good order. But the pressure to connect can be unrelenting, so saying no can be difficult. “Standardizing reduces support costs and security risks,” says RIM's Amszej. “And the easiest way to do this is to have a clear policy and set expectations early around supported platforms and processes.”
Many organizations today do manage to say no—and make it stick. Speaking at the WES 2009 Conference, William McDermott, Product Service Manager at Boeing, says that his company has standardized on the BlackBerry solution. He gives people at his company three reasons for why he will not connect their unsupported, non-BlackBerry devices:
- It is outside our company's policies
- It is outside our security policies
- Our CEO will not appreciate you asking
Think before you connect
Consider the benefits, risks, and tradeoffs when you allow employees to connect their personal smartphones to the organization's infrastructure. Giving employees mobile access to the people and the information they need to get things done, anywhere, is the big benefit to allowing employee-owned devices.
And with the new BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express you no longer have to compromise on security and manageability with employee-owned BlackBerry smartphones. If you do say yes, go in with a strategy that works for your organization.