How to keep BYOD from killing your network

When your employees are transitioning from work to home with a bevvy of gadgets, it’s hard for them to not understand why it’s not a great idea for them to use their arsenal on the office’s network. To avoid having IT departments butting heads with the tech savvy in your office, set up a BYOD environment that’s gadget friendly.

Here are some thoughts on how to keep the office harmony intact.

First off, establish a policy to ensure the security of your business systems. Just like companies have vacation policies, you need to establish rules so employees understand their responsibilities when they access the network and work programs. It shouldn’t matter if access happens from a company provided system or a personal one. The rules might vary slightly for systems not under corporate control, but there still should be a fairly uniform set of established guidelines. Establish the policy first, and then open things up. Without the policy in place, tools will be added or systems exposed with no control over those initial configuration settings.

It might sound scary to allow personal devices onto corporate networks, but with corporate systems becoming more and more accessible via the Internet, anyone could potentially access those services anyway. Looking at the big picture to allow known personal devices into the internal world will help you prevent unknown hackers from doing the same.

What are some typical policies businesses put in place here?

- Make sure your company has wireless access and it can handle the additional load that BYOD adds. People no longer have unlimited wireless data plans and when Wi-Fi is available, they’ll use it. You must have this password-protected/encrypted, typically with WPA or WPA2 support. Keep in mind the number of IP addresses this could add and plan accordingly. Ensure meeting places like cafeterias and conference rooms can handle the demand. Here are 3 Tips to Keep BYOD from Killing Your Network.

- Make sure devices have screen locking enabled. This ensures a random person cannot pick up a device and access data without a PIN, security pattern, face unlock or other access control mechanism in place. Here’s a look at the unlock security options on the Samsung Galaxy S3 to give you an idea of options beyond just a PIN to lock down a phone.

- Make sure corporate data kept on the devices is encrypted. You should have a policy like this in place already for any data that can be carried out of the office on a laptop, so adding phones and tablets to the mix shouldn’t be treated any differently. And, here’s another reason to always encrypt your smartphone.

- Make sure you have a plan in place to handle lost or stolen devices. Remote wipe software is becoming more popular, but remote wiping also means all data on the device is lost permanently. Set up a backup strategy to ensure no corporate data is ever lost. Employees should have a plan in place for protecting their personal data, too. Be careful though. As reporter Mat Honan found out, there are risks associated with allowing remote wiping. Back up, back up, back up everything on that device, as well as all of those server files, too. A compromised device could wipe out files on a server, too.

- Make sure to train employees. This may sound unnecessary, but unless they understand the risks involved and how to properly alleviate the risks, they’re essentially putting their personal information at risk too.

Having a BYOD policy in place doesn’t mean you have to accept all devices on your corporate networks. You can limit it to those that support the appropriate controls your company requires. But—allowing employees to use their personal tablets and smartphones will allow for greater connectivity. And instead of buying employees their own BlackBerry with its associated monthly phone charges, employees foot the basic initial and monthly expenses. Be sure to set expectations accordingly, as any added security measures could affect their personal usage patterns of the devices, too.