The days of keeping your work at the office are behind us.  Thank you: Blackberry, Android, and my beloved iPhone.  You can now read emails at the dinner table (a practice that I strongly suggest against) or listen to voicemails on the golf course (see first suggestion).  My point is that we are now a mobile society.  The smart phone has become our mobile office.  But what happens if the phone is lost?  Will the person who finds the phone read all your emails?  What information would they be able to see?

No matter how hard the IT Department wants to avoid them, smart phones are everywhere.  And anyone who spends time away from the office wants their emails on their smart phones.  That is good business and good customer service.  There has to be a way to keep business moving and protect the company’s and customer’s data.

With any control, you have to start with policy.  Policies are how Management communicates their expectations.  Do you have policies in place for emails and smart phones?  Does it cover the kinds of information that should not be sent over emails?  Does that policy address what to do when a customer sends confidential information to your staff?    Are your smart phone users required to password-protect their phones?  Does your policy state what to do if someone loses their phone?  These are bare minimum requirements.

Next, do you know who has email on their phones? Can you delete emails from their phones remotely?  If you have web access to your emails, your staff can set up their phones to get corporate emails without going through the IT Department.  If you educate your staff on why it is important for the IT Department to know about their smart phone and why the rules are in place, they will cooperate.  It is everyone’s responsibility to protect your company’s and your customer’s information.

Another trend is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  It becomes a Win-Win for companies and users.  Typically, authorized employees are reimbursed $100-$200 for the device and $50-$80 a month for data.  This saves the company from purchasing devices and they know exactly what their monthly cost will be.  The user gets to purchase whatever device they want and defray part of that cost.  While they may go over the reimburse amount, they still have a significant part of the cost paid and they can use the device for personal calls, etc.

As with most things, there are pros and cons.  While allowing people to use the device they want you are also asking the IT Department to support a lot of devices.  Some companies are saying that the user must find their own support for their phones from the phone company.  This may work fine but you may also be telling your staff that it is OK for the person at the Verizon store to see confidential emails or to have your password.  Make sure everyone knows and understands the rules and the risks.

Remember: it is great to be connected all the time but be careful you don’t let it distract you from other work (or family and friends).