Keeping business and personal information separate and safe in a digital world

The idea of the mobile office has gained traction across a wide variety of industries, and for some, it’s already the new standard of doing business. While being able to work from any location and across global time zones opens up exciting new opportunities, it also brings with it new challenges and concerns for employees, business owners and IT departments. Chief among those is how to manage the security of mobile devices – and the networks that enable mobile connectivity – that are central to conducting business on the go.

While many companies issue mobile devices to employees, the majority of workers also have personal devices, which can lead to cumbersome juggling of multiple smartphones, tablets and laptops. Most people who work remotely want their equipment to be as streamlined as possible, so it’s not uncommon to use one device to access everything – work email and documents as well as personal information and applications. Unfortunately, without proper management, that sort of streamlining leads to security and privacy risks, for both employer and employee.

Businesses going mobile have a twofold goal: To make it as easy as possible for employees to maintain a high level of productivity, all while upholding the security of information and networks. With that in mind, following these tips can ensure that your business is taking the right approach to mobility.

* Have a mobile usage policy. If an employee uses a device for both work and personal matters, it’s important that there be a clear definition of work usage terms and a privacy agreement for personal use. Employers should require mobile users to enroll both company-owned and individually owned devices, as well as require all devices be uniformly configured.

* Mobile management tools. In the developing world of the mobile office, new management solutions are being designed specifically to address the unique concerns of workforces on the go. Mobile device management (MDM) software from companies like Zenprise gives businesses the power to protect data and networks, all while enabling employees to stay productive using the devices they prefer (whether it’s iOS, Android, Windows or BlackBerry).

* Monitor usage. Knowing who is using which kind of device is a central element of mobile security. While it’s a good idea to let employees choose the platform that works best for them, using an MDM solution gives you a visual of how many devices and which operating systems are accessing your network. An MDM solution can also indicate whether a device has been compromised or modified. MDM also allows companies to manage employee application usage through blacklists (can’t use) and whitelists (okay for usage), and give organizations the ability to restrict the usage of applications, like cameras or application stores, during work hours.

* Set up profiles. Creating a unique profile for employees using a mobile device makes it easier to divide what’s personal and what’s professional. An employer-created profile on a corporate network, which can comply with security policies, passcode requirements and other standards, provides a more secure workspace and keeps work and play separate. Profiles can be customized to allow employees access to information and websites that are necessary to their work and different levels of access can be granted to employees with different job functions.

* Encourage updating. Up-to-date devices make it easier to manage the mobile workplace. Encourage employees who want to work from their own devices to use modern devices, and keep their platforms updated to the most current releases. Older devices and operating systems are less able to fend off threats and they’re also more demanding of network resources.