Why Mobile Device Management (MDM) is important for small businesses

19.05.2016 |

BYODmobile device management

Why Mobile Device Management (MDM) is important for small businessesMany small businesses (from sole traders upwards) operate a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy whether they know it or not.

Mobile devices (especially smartphones) are expensive so there is often a need for the business owner or employees to use their personal devices for company activities. Whether that is emails, FSS (File Sync and Share), cloud accounting software, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software or anything else. But do small business owners ever stop and think about the risks this poses to their own or their customer's data?

Data has a value and, if it ends up in the wrong hands, that data can be exploited. Small businesses have had the need for data backups and good anti-virus provision drummed into them for some time now. And yet there is an alarming trend of letting company data 'walk out of the door' on unsecured devices on a daily basis. In the modern business world, this is one of the most likely sources of a significant data leak there is.

Imagine a disgruntled ex-employee having access to your financial data or losing a key member of staff to a competitor and them taking your full list of business contacts with them. A pretty horrific thought! And yet, small business owners are running this risk every day.

What is MDM (Mobile Device Management?)

Before we dive into MDM it is worth noting that, for the purposes of this article, we are going to reference the MDM capabilities that are 'hard baked' into Google Apps for Work and on Android devices. Other MDM services are available but Google Apps for Work is one of the easiest to manage and feature-rich we have found and Google Apps for Work's MDM is included in the monthly 'per user' price.

MDM basically means remote control of a user's mobile device. Each device must be 'enrolled' into MDM in order to access company data. In the case of Google Apps for Work this can include work emails, calendars, files and folders (through Google Drive) and other apps available from Google Play.

For an Android device to be enrolled into your Google Apps for Work environment, a few simple criteria must be met. The first is a 'Work Profile'. In newer versions of Android (versions 5.1.1 and upwards), the ability to create a 'Work Profile' is native to the OS. The second is encryption. Encrypting the data on a device stores it in a scrambled and unreadable format. The third is screen lock (PIN code, facial recognition and fingerprint scanners are all screen lock/unlock methods) and the fourth is for the device to be 'authorised' through the Google Apps for Work administration area.

What Does a 'Work Profile' Do?

Once the device is enrolled, the user has the ability to install pre-approved (or 'whitelisted') applications on their work profile and access company data through them. For example, if you add a work email address to Gmail on a 'Work Profile' then this will need to be approved by an administrator in Google Apps for Work. When approved, Gmail can be used within that profile as normal.

The real beauty of the Google Apps for Work and 'Work Profile' set-up is that work data from the device can be remotely wiped without affecting the user's personal data (emails, photos, videos, documents and so on). If an employee leaves your business then it is easy to remove your company data from their device and their phone will continue to work as normal.

In more extreme cases (such as if a device is lost or stolen) the whole device can be factory reset, but we would urge you to exercise extreme caution when doing this, your employees may not thank you for wiping all of their personal data!

Why is MDM Important for Small Businesses?

Now you know what MDM is, we should really explain why it is important for small businesses. From the day you start your business, you are generating data. It may be your 3 year business plan, your killer website content or an email from a hot new prospect.

All of this data is valuable to you and your business. It represents time and effort that you have spent to help your business grow and should be protected. Even if you are a sole-trader we would still advise a level of MDM for your own devices, this ensures that your data is not compromised if your mobile device is lost or stolen.

If you are just setting out on a new business venture then we would urge you to consider MDM from the outset.

If you would like some advice or help in setting up MDM for your business then please contact us today for an informal chat.

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