Groundhog Day comes once per year, and if that chubby rodent sees its own shadow, we’re stuck jumping back in time for another six weeks of winter. Like Bill Murray in the classic film of the same name, employees that regularly use smartphones and other mobile devices for work might be experiencing a time loop phenomenon of their own. Despite the advances in technology over the past two decades, best practices from the personal computing boom in the 2000s keep recurring for mobile devices.
From Square Point of Sale systems at food trucks, to employees editing documents in Office 365 from their smartphones, to warehouse workers scanning pallets with RF “guns,” mobile devices are everywhere in today’s workforce. The computing power of these devices and the security risks associated with them has led many companies to develop best practices to help keep their employees safe and productive. Just like the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and its mystical groundhog, some of them might seem a little familiar.
Here are four computing best practices from 2000 that are making a comeback.
1) Enterprises Monitoring Mobile Device Traffic and Behavior
Work computers in the 2000s were often heavily monitored by IT, with only a small list of approved websites and applications for work purposes allowed. Most of these restrictions disappeared over the years, as the number of websites and applications required for employees to do their jobs grew, wireless internet usage became more common, and the amount of data moving to and from employee devices became too large for IT to reasonably monitor. But more advanced monitoring products are now letting employers monitor employee mobile traffic in detail. This lets them ensure that employees are using devices for productive activities (not wasting bandwidth with video streaming or killing time on social media) and check that data usage is appropriate and safe.
A major part of this resurgence is driven by cyber security risks – if employees are accessing sensitive corporate information on their smartphones, IT needs to know where that data is being sent, if it’s being accessed on insecure networks, and if those devices visit risky sites that could be hosting malware.
2) Corporate-owned Devices
The BYOD push in the mid-2000s moved the corporate world away from employer-provided phones. But in response to increasing security risks and data costs, employers are beginning to provide corporate mobile devices again. Switching wholesale from BYOD to all-corporate isn’t realistic, but many companies in high-risk industries like logistics, airlines or financial services are transitioning to a mix of BYOD and corporate devices, with the goal of moving to full corporate-owned over time.
3) Employee Security Training
Remember the wonderful IT training sessions on how to use new technology, where you were spellbound by the marvels of the Powerbook G4? Prepare to nod off in all-hands meetings all over again, because employers are starting to train employees on security best practices for their mobile devices, just like they did for personal computers. Businesses are realizing that employees who travel or work remotely need to know basic security practices like how to use secure passwords and how to avoid fake Wi-Fi hotspots in public places.
4) Mobile VPN
Employers are realizing that employees work on smartphones as often as laptops, and that all of these devices need protection. While VPNs specifically for mobile devices have been around since the early 2000s and can seamlessly protect mobile traffic without the user noticing, they have not usually been a business priority. In fact, in a recent survey 66 percent of companies reported that they don’t require employees to access corporate data using a secure VPN. The good news is that this is changing. No other tool can protect mobile device traffic in the same way a mobile VPN can. As employers and everyday consumers recognize these benefits, use of the technology is rising. The number of VPN users worldwide has increased by 350% from 2016 to 2018. The VPN is back, and we expect more companies will implement mobile VPNs and require employees to use them in 2019.
The good news is that these best practices help make mobile device use safer and more productive for employees and employers alike. NetMotion’s Operational Intelligence platform helps enterprises implement these best practices by providing unprecedented visibility and control of their mobile deployment using previously untapped information on mobile devices. The software empowers IT by solving mobility problems automatically, enhances mobile performance, ensures security and compliancy, and controls data usage and costs across any network. As Phil finally learns by the end of the movie, a little repetition isn’t always a bad thing.