The portable computer is an essential business tool for day’s mobile workforce, having the power and portability to meet the demands of executives and professionals working away from the office. While executives and mobile professionals get the applications and data they need to keep productivity high, carrying business data on devices outside the network introduces significant business risk.
There are studies which estimate that as much as 80% of the data a small business owns (data like customer files, contracts, product information and financial data) is copied to or stored on portable computers. When valuable business data is lost or stolen, the business can be exposed to a variety of problems – loss of revenue being just one. Losing track of business data can create legal issues, too. Customer privacy may be compromised, sensitive information could be exposed, or confidential plans might be made public if a business doesn’t take the right steps to secure its data.
It isn’t just the possibility of loss or theft which increases risk when data is copied to portable computers – the increased vulnerability of the information sits with the likelihood that the user will access unsecured networks, launch non-corporate applications, access private email accounts and perform other non-business related tasks with the computer because they have more access than with a fully secured corporate in-office desktop. User behavior is often what puts corporate data and assets at risk, regardless of the policies that might define correct and acceptable procedures. It is very easy for workers to unknowingly lose and leak data, and when the data is present on the portable computer it gets even easier.
A 2014 study commissioned by Cisco Systems found that employees around the world continue to engage in “risky” behaviors that put business and personal information at risk:
- The majority (70%) of surveyed IT pros believe that as many as half of their data loss incidents are due to authorized program installations
- 44% of employees share work devices with others without supervision
- 39% of IT professionals have dealt with employees trying to access unauthorized parts of the company’s network
- Almost half of the employees admitted to copying data between work and personal computers when working from home
- 18% (up to 25% in some regions) of employees shared passwords with their co-workers
Companies must not only protect their data for their financial well-being, but must recognize their legal obligation to protect much of the information, as well. The risk extends beyond the walls of the enterprise, to vendors and customers and consumers whose information may be stored in the company data. Additionally, portable computers exposed to malware and virus attacks are likely to pass the bad code to other systems they come in contact with, introducing not just risk for the recipient but liability for the infected laptop owner.
Where mobile computing brings huge advantages to today’s business, owners would do well to consider the benefits of enabling mobility through the use of server-based and hosted computing models. Rather than installing software and copying data to PCs and mobile devices, workers should be able to access a central system where the applications actually run. IT management is more efficient and security is easier to enforce when applications and resources are contained exclusively within the corporate boundary, even if they are accessible from without.
Virtual desktop and remote application solutions offer features that address a variety of potential risk factors as well as enabling improved management and security of IT assets. Centralizing and securing applications and data resources at the server allows businesses to deliver the mobility and functionality users need while enabling the information security and management the business demands. This is a foundation upon which remote desktop and remote application technologies were built, allowing users to have the real-time access to applications and data with full functionality and desktop modality, but without the requirement to install, manage and secure applications and data on the individual devices.