Martin Warren of NetApp explains why the mobile workforce is not as idyllic as industry whitepapers would have you believe
In practice, the reality of the mobile workforce is perhaps not as idyllic as industry whitepapers would have you believe – particularly from an IT management perspective. While the concept of working from home and on the move is embraced by time-poor employees, maintaining productivity outside the office is underpinned by access to online communication, collaboration and file storage services – many of them cloud-based. A convenient way for employees to ensure that they are fully equipped when working on a mobile is with the help of personal cloud services, which they can connect to via the public internet often with limited security layers in place.
Picture the scene: you’re about to board a flight for a conference abroad and you receive an email from your boss asking for the plan he was supposed to have reviewed last week. Relying on an overused airport Wi-Fi connection to email a 7MB file from your laptop is making life extremely difficult – especially when you only have five minutes to play with. However, you know that you can drop the file, which is saved on your desktop, into one of the popular file collaboration tools and share it with your boss this way. What do you do? Are you going to explain that you can’t email the file, as you are concerned about the consequences of storing private company files on a shared public cloud platform? In all honesty, you’d probably be able to hear the ringing of your boss’s reaction in your ears for the entire flight. So, you’re going to get it to them as soon as possible, by any means necessary.
The issue here is that you’ve just compromised the security of a sensitive document and therefore your company. The IT management team now has no control over this information. It would be an overstatement and somewhat disingenuous to say that it is now public information – you and your organisation just don’t have total control over it anymore and are relying on a provider that has no contractual obligation to your company to keep it secure. While this is a threat that must be taken seriously, as an IT manager, you cannot simply ban the use of platforms employees find useful without proposing an alternative solution. The role of the IT manager is to be an enabler of better, more flexible working practices, not a network doorman looking to maintain the status quo.
The fact is, it’s unrealistic to expect employees working remotely not to perform tasks when there is a viable way of performing them. Connectivity and security issues should not disrupt the working day of results- and time-pressured people. However, using personal cloud services is not a viable solution for businesses – especially if we’re talking about sharing files containing information you would not want to be viewed externally and need to be stored securely.
Businesses have experimented with circulating guidelines and policies for use of such platforms. While this may reduce risks and convince a select number of employees to approach personal cloud services with further caution, it isn’t sufficient. Referring back to the example above – when the chips are down and there’s a job to be done, you can never guarantee that employees will put security concerns ahead of their day job. In fact, the safest bet is to bank on them not even considering it.
So, IT managers can’t ban services that make employees’ lives easier, but they can’t accept the use of personal cloud platforms either. What can we do? I hear you ask. In the modern workplace, businesses must allow their employees to take advantage of mobile working in a controlled and secure environment. So, allow employees to use cloud-based collaboration tools – but ones that you know are monitored, secured and that ultimately you have a far higher level of control over.
It’s too easy to accept that personal cloud use has become an established part of day-to-day operations and not provide a better alternative. However, there are a plethora of options available, including a whole host of services provided by trusted, dedicated cloud partners.
In an ideal world, users will be able to access and view files from within a corporate network from anywhere on a mobile device, but the file never has to actually leave the corporate network where it is secure. While the mobile user gets what they need in a way that’s convenient to them, essentially the data remains within control of the company rather than the individual.
Furthermore, using an enterprise-grade cloud solution should not limit the choice of the company when it comes to the mobile application. Best-of-breed solutions combining reliable infrastructure and storage with a choice of user-friendly applications from multiple providers ensure both peace of mind and choice for the IT department and the user.
Ultimately, the priorities of a business and its employees should not conflict with those of the IT department, but be aligned. And the role of IT is to allow people to work from anywhere, and on any device, without compromising productivity, usability or security.
This is a contributed article from Martin Warren, cloud solutions marketing manager, NetApp.
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