Y-generation demands mobile freedom

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There is a worldwide increase in remote workers and SA is no exception as the new Y-generation gets into the workforce demanding flexibility in the workplace.

This is according to Sean Wainer, country manager of Check Point Software Technologies Southern Africa, commenting on the findings of the ITWeb/Check Point Mobile Office Survey.

The survey asked respondents to reveal the number of remote workers in their organisations and discovered 21% have more than half of their employees working away from the office.

Of the respondents, 19% said mobile workers constitute 25 to 50% of their workforce; while 38% revealed that such employees make up 10%. Only 1% said remote workers are non-existent in their organisations.

Furthermore, the research determined that 79% of the respondents expect the number of network users in their organisations to increase. 17% said they will remain static while 4% foresee a decline.

Constant growth

Says Wainer: “Clearly, we are seeing a constant growth in IT users worldwide though remote users are growing substantially.”

This is a worldwide phenomenon, he says: “We are seeing not only a user demand for more flexibility, but a realisation from organisations that remote workers cost less in overheads”.

Another factor, says Wainer, is the growing understanding that remote workers are more efficient and generally more productive. He argues that there is no office space, power and consumables required for remote users.

On a scale of one to five, the survey also asked the respondents to rate their software application preferences. E-mail and collaboration, proved to be the most popular with 62% of the respondents saying it is very important for the mobile office.

Second on the list was productivity, eg word processing, garnering 39%, while PDF viewers came third with 23%.

De-facto standard for business communication

“Many people live and die by e-mail these days. It is the de-facto standard for business communication. It is a lightweight application, prevalent and demanded. It is also the single app that improves productivity the most,” says Wainer.

However, he says e-mail's popularity is also most open to abuse or attack.

The survey also found out that 27% of the remote employees have e-mail on the smarthones or PDAs.

“I think that this is the nature of the modern workforce. With mobile technology improving, being low cost and relatively efficient, this makes sense. However, this is also the weakest link in the security chain.

“The more advanced these units are becoming, the more data they store - not only mail, but attachments. Millions of mobile phones are lost around the world. Not many of them are password protected or encrypted. A lost or stolen phone often contains a wealth of private or proprietary information,” notes Wainer.

Prioritising security

On the security note, the survey also asked the respondents to rate, on a scale of one to five, how they view security. Generally, it was found many of the organisations prioritise security issues.

A high of 59% said they view securing remote employees access to corporate network as very important while 21% asserted that it's not important at all.

On the ability to securely access corporate from anywhere, 57% of the respondents said they regard it as very important while 19% think otherwise.

Interesting figures popped up regarding laptop data protection, with 43% of respondents saying it is very vital; 19% said it's not important at all while the remaining 40% were in-between.

Securing mobile data on USB drives had 53% of respondents rating it very important to important. 15% rate this averagely, giving it three out of five, while the remaining 32% gave it either four or five.

Data loss

On the other hand, Wainer believes that organisations are not investing enough on security. “There is a lot of education that is required. Both on the end-user side and within organisations.

“The primary security concern is the loss of data. One survey puts an average middle manager in the US's laptop at a value of over $50 000. This is not the hardware, or licensed software, but the value of the data contained therein.

“First, is the data that resides on the device - ensure the data on the machine is encrypted, ensure that users cannot easily remove information.

“Since these units are being used in 'rogue' environments like open WiFi networks, strong anti virus and network access control should be on the unit too. Further, a personal firewall on the units is always a smart move,” says Wainer.

He adds that the other concern is contact with the office while “out in the wild”. “You need to utilise a VPN solution that is secure, efficient and easy to use. Generally, the simpler the security, the better the end-user buy-in is and this is critical”.

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