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The demise of the office computer and other high-tech trends you need to be aware of

Device Wars: 2013

Feb 6, 2013

by Robin Schroffel

Over the course of the last year or so, bring your own device (or BYOD, as it’s increasingly referred to) has become one of the hottest terms in IT. And according to Douglas Gray, president and CEO of IT consultants Graycon Group, the movement towards BYOD is unstoppable. “It’s exploded,” he says. “Let’s be honest: There is nowhere that an employee doesn’t have an iPhone, Android or tablet and is using it for business purposes.”

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Indeed, at businesses and organizations across the province, employees are using their personal mobile devices to transmit, store, and otherwise work with sensitive corporate data, whether the practice has been sanctioned or not. In a January 2012 Dimensional Research survey of IT professionals in Canada, the U.S., Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan, 78 per cent of respondents reported that the number of personal mobile devices connecting to corporate networks had more than doubled since 2010.

Those trends can’t continue indefinitely, and experts stress that BYOD will never replace traditional IT and its centrally provided applications and desktop computers. Rather, just as technology is becoming consumer-driven, so it is with IT. “We’re still going to be delivering business systems,” he says. “BYOD is just something new that IT has to evolve with and add to its arsenal.”

“Let’s be honest: There is nowhere that an employee doesn’t have an iPhone, Android or tablet and is using it for business purposes.” – Douglas Gray, president and CEO of IT consultants Graycon Group

But like it or not, BYOD is a growing part of the business world and Gray says the sooner the rules are laid down within organizations, the better. “All of us want to use our mobile devices, and we’re going to. It’s IT and business leaders’ job to make sure we’re protected and the company is protected when we do that.”

By allowing employees to use their own hardware, companies can drastically reduce IT costs and increase employee satisfaction. But there’s a lengthy list of risks involved as well, including network security issues, concerns over acceptable use such as viewing social networks or pornography, liability questions and potential conflicts over data billing. And what happens when an employee quits, taking the corporate financials and key client lists on their iPhone with them?

With the potential for so many disasters lurking within the BYOD trend, Gray says it’s important for companies to implement a strategy to deal with issues that may arise before an embarrassing data breach or sky-high bill becomes a problem. “Ask these questions before it becomes an ugly mess,” he says. “It’s not like there are other choices. Either you just let it be random chaos, or you build a BYOD policy.”

Steps to a safe and secure BYOD policy

Take the lead

Gray says that a company’s BYOD policy should reflect the values and principles inscribed in its existing HR and IT strategies and its broader corporate mission. “I’m a believer that business IT should always be led by business goals and management,” he says. “It’s not a tech who writes this.”

Be proactive

The BYOD policy should cover questions that may come up regarding personal mobile devices, and it should protect the rights of both the company and the employee. Along with addressing what an employee can do on the corporate network with a personal device, the BYOD policy should answer questions employees might have about the repair of broken devices, who pays for apps, data billing and other expenses, and what happens to any corporate information stored on the device after the employee leaves the company.

Keep track

To go along with the policy, Gray recommends setting up mobile device management software and requiring employees to register all BYOD devices with the company. Software of this type is able to track and manage these personal mobile devices, including keeping tabs on all antivirus software and updating and patching software when needed, to keep the devices secure to the company’s standard.

Back it up

Remote-wipe software can be a worthwhile investment, given that it prevents potential data loss. The software allows companies to erase things from a computer’s hard-drive from afar, and can be useful if a mobile device is stolen, goes missing or if an employee leaves the company. But protecting an employee’s personal data in this case can also be an issue, so be sure to go with software that segregates corporate data from personal data, and address remote-wipe rights in your BYOD policy.

Best Apps for Business

With the increasing use of mobile devices in business circles, there’s an explosion of relevant apps for iPhone, Android, iPad and other tablets. Whether you’re seeking to transfer data, protect sensitive information, sign documents digitally or streamline your social media accounts, there’s an app that could help. Here are five of our favourites that make it easier to do business.

bump
Bump

Quickly transfer contact information and photos from one phone or tablet to another, or between your phone and a computer, with Bump. Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android devices, the app even works cross-platform. All it takes is a little fist bump-style physical contact while the Bump app is open, and your device will take care of the rest.
Free on the iTunes App Store or Google Play

koolspan
Koolspan TrustCall

Your Android or BlackBerry phone just became that much more versatile with Koolspan’s TrustCall app. TrustCall provides a turnkey solution to small businesses transmitting sensitive information via voice and text messaging, allowing users to encrypt their sensitive calls and texts without a specialized device. Simply drop a software-equipped microSD card into your phone’s slot, and gain the capacity for military-grade encryption.
$119 activation fee per device; $44 per month for app bundle | koolspan.com

tweetdeck
TweetDeck

Manage multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts from one easy-to-use app, available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android devices, and even –
yes – regular old computers. TweetDeck retains the capacity for all the functions you know and depend on, including retweets, scheduled tweets, direct messages, Facebook likes and status updates, and search. Plus, you can tweet from multiple accounts without having to log in and out each time.
Free on the iTunes App Store or Google Play

dropbox
Dropbox

Still emailing files to yourself as an improvised cloud storage solution? Put those days behind you with the help of Dropbox, a versatile app that makes storing your data in the ether easier, less time consuming and more organized. Dropbox provides cloud storage that’s not only a godsend in its own right, but that can seamlessly integrate with other apps such as attachments.me, IFTTT and BoxCryptor, to add functionality and synchronization with everything from Gmail to Facebook.
Free up to two GB; team billing plans vary | dropbox.com

rightsignature
RightSignature

Available for iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, RightSignature’s app makes having your clients sign documents remotely as simple as sending an email. Clicking on the RightSignature link within a document launches the app, and using a finger on the touchscreen, documents can be signed in moments. You can also finally ditch the clipboard in favour of a tablet, because the app can also be used to collect client info and signatures using its built-in templates.
Free with any RightSignature plan | rightsignature.com

Death of the PC?

Ever since tablets and smart phones burst onto the technology scene, personal computers have been the subject of Mayan calendar-esque doomsday predictions. But Granville Wong, owner of Express Computer Store in Calgary, says he still sees PCs owning a share of the market. “People are switching more and more to tablets and laptop computers, but there are still some things these cannot do,” he says. “Desktop computers still have their place.”

But there are now mobile options to meet most business needs. Chief among them, says Wong, is the Ultrabook, the powerful, sleek version of the laptop that took the tech world by storm in 2012. Here are our picks for the top mobile-tech products for doing business on the go.

thinkpad
Lenovo ThinkPad Twist

Have the best of both worlds in one convenient, business-oriented ultrabook-tablet hybrid. Lenovo’s ThinkPad Twist is set apart by a hinge, which allows users to rotate the screen in a range of ways and convert the device from laptop to tablet and back again. It boasts a wider-than-usual range of ports, including a Gigabit Ethernet port, a four-in-one card reader, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, and a Kensington lock slot. And with its basic black colour, it makes a good low-key choice for business users.
$1,079.99 | canadacomputers.com

iPadmini
iPad mini

For an even more portable version of a perennial favourite, there’s the iPad mini, a 7.9” tablet that offers all the perks and functionality of the traditional iPad but fits comfortably into one hand. Twenty-three per cent thinner and 53 per cent lighter than its predecessor, the iPad mini’s super-fast dual-band WiFi, razor-sharp display, and 10-hour battery life all add up to a concentrated version of Apple’s standard tablet device.
Starting at $329 store.apple.com

htc
HTC One X +

Coming hot on the heels of the highly rated HTC One X, this Android smart phone boasts a large 4.7” Gorilla Glass touchscreen, improved battery life and storage capabilities over its predecessor, and a thin and light design. Running Android 4.1, the phone offers rapid-fire web browsing and app usage. And with the Google Play store, it can be easily outfitted with apps business users may soon find indispensable.
$650 with no term telusmobility.com

fujitsu
Fujitsu Stylistic M532

For a tablet specifically designed for business users, look no further than Fujitsu’s Stylistic M532. The Android device, featuring a sturdy 10.1” screen, has a textured back to enhance grip and offers close to 10 hours of battery time for normal use. The device contains ready-to-use software for managing corporate email, contacts and calendars, and can integrate into your company’s virtual-desktop infrastructure.
$554 | store.shopfujitsu.com

zenbook
Asus Zenbook 13.3” with Intel Core i7

Aiming to bring a sense of balance and harmony into hectic daily life, the Zenbook ultrabooks are sleek and slim premium notebook computers from Taiwanese innovators Asus. Available in everything from a tiny 11.6” to a 15.6” full-HD display, the Zenbooks feature backlit keyboards, multi-touch touch pads, SSD drives and high-capacity hard drives. Plus, gorgeous spun-metal aluminum casings mean stylish looks to go along with prime performance.
$1,249.99 bestbuy.ca

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