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Connectivity or control – do businesses have to choose?

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Jenna Delport
Jenna Delport
I’m a tech writer, world traveller, avocado-eater and dog lover, not always in that order.

We expect connectivity in every aspect of our lives. Whether that’s at home, on public transport or even in the workplace. As consumers, we are accustomed to solutions and technology which are available anywhere and do the job needed with as little friction as possible. This is no different in the workplace. What is different, is the need for compliance – something IT teams are striving to keep control over.

Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon

‘Bring your own technology’

For today’s modern worker, the easiest route to connecting with the company system might be using their own mobile devices, personal laptops or consumer-grade applications they are most familiar with. One recent survey found that 85% of enterprises allow employees to access company data from personal devices.  This has become an accepted part of modern working habits, so the banning of personal devices is almost never suggested, except in the highest security cases, such as the defence industry.

Meanwhile, it’s also common for employees to use consumer file-sharing tools over the alternatives provided by the IT department. Free applications such as WeTransfer, DropBox and OneDrive continue to be hugely popular, even within businesses which have their own IT-approved alternatives. The result is that nearly three-quarters of employees admit to sharing information with colleagues and 60% with people outside the organisation, through non-compliant file-sharing tools.

This isn’t a huge surprise. All office workers need the ability to store, access and share files freely and easily to prevent bottlenecks. Ultimately users are turning to consumer alternatives because they are seeking the most convenient option. For example, when it comes to collaborating on the move, many employees save files on their own home or mobile devices which use these programmes, either because of issues accessing their company system or simply because it’s so easy to do so. Likewise, many employees use programmes such as WeTransfer to circumvent business limits on email attachment sizes.  It’s so common that it has become unremarkable.

Threat to compliance

But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t concerning. IT departments are faced with a lack of visibility and have no way of determining who is holding or distributing files and to where. With compliance and regulations more stringent than ever before, this can pose a serious issue. Organisations leave themselves open to fines if they are unable to identify what information they hold and who it has been shared with.

Unlike an enterprise content management (ECM) solution, an application like DropBox doesn’t automatically apply retention policies and governance compliance mandates. As a result, business-critical documents, such as passports and bank details required by HR, do not receive additional, automatic security or compliance protection.

Businesses using this platform or other alternatives need to manually manage and delete critical, highly sensitive documents at the appropriate time. This can become almost impossible to do at the standard required by legislation like the GDPR, especially as businesses usually don’t have total visibility of where copies of documents are stored or if they have been deleted.

How to adapt to hybrid habits

So, what’s the solution? Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a single answer. Firstly, IT managers must be prepared to adapt to the reality of changing working habits. Faced with the complexity of enterprise technology, employees frequently opt for simpler, more user-friendly applications. This insight should be front of mind when IT and business leaders make decisions about technology spend.

Secondly, enterprise file sharing solutions must offer the convenience and capacity workers require, while storage systems need to be easily accessible from wherever employees choose to work. And it isn’t just about functionality either. IT teams should keep in mind that un-ergonomic design hinders the successful uptake of business tools.

Finally, when it comes to the use of personal mobiles or laptop for work activity, organisations need to provide employees with more advice about selecting the right device and implementing the right security settings. By letting workers leverage the technology they prefer, while providing them with guidance, enterprises can make the most of connected working while minimising the risks of unaudited devices.

Putting IT centre stage

Today, technology is the backbone of every business’s success. Companies will live and die by the efficiency and usability of the technology they implement. It’s only natural, therefore, that IT takes a more central role. From the boardroom to the office floor, IT teams must be at the forefront of understanding business and employee needs to ensure they can find the right balance between connectivity and control.

By Dana Eitzen

Edited by Jenna Delport

Follow Jenna Delport on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

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