SME technology challenge over use of personal devices

5516183154_2a2589b272_oAlmost two-thirds of UK small businesses do not have security systems and policies to handle the use of personal mobile devices for work.

A global survey of managers of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) found 34% of UK decision-makers do have policies, procedures and/or IT systems in place to manage the use of personal communication devices by employees. This is higher than in Europe and the US, where the figures are 28% and 19% respectively.

The survey was conducted by YouGov on behalf of cloud computing specialist Citrix and polled 1,250 managers and senior executives across Europe, North America and Australia.

Robert Gratzl, managing director, VP and GM EMEA, online services division at Citrix said UK SMBs are “rightly anxious about their firms’ potential exposure, with particular concerns around remote network access and document downloads, for example.”

He added: “However, like other countries, they still have some way to go, with almost two-thirds possibly lacking the tools and processes to automatically delete business information from employees’ personal devices if, for example, they are lost or stolen.”

A quarter (25%) of SMBs said they are under increasing pressure to introduce flexible, mobile business working practices, up on 21% two years ago. Pressure from employees is the most commonly cited driver for this (29%), ahead of competitors (27%), regulation (14%) or the environment (8%).

Of the 201 respondents surveyed in the UK, 47% said their employees are already using their personal devices for work. Management and sales departments are most likely to, though respondents said the demand applies to all parts of their organisations.

Half of respondents who said staff were allowed to use their own devices reported measurable productivity gains of up to 30%, with a further 14% achieving increases of more than 30%.

The productivity figures show significant improvement over 2011’s survey, when only 46% reported measurable efficiency gains. The number of SMBs who saw no measurable improvement also halved, falling to 14% from 27% in 2011.

“The move to a more mobile workplace, or ‘workshifting’, is being encouraged at all levels of the business,” said Gratzl. “SMBs are increasingly investing in technologies to support this – with nearly twice as many now providing smartphones to their staff compared to two years ago – as they recognise the tangible value of enabling staff to work anywhere.”

He added: “However, firms must recognise that enabling the use of personal devices also presents a formidable challenge to the IT support team, in looking both to maintain secure remote access and business continuity, at the same time taking full advantage of a more tech-savvy, self-help workforce.”

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