Using Today’s Technology to Plan for Tomorrow’s Disaster

Is BYOD Right for Your Business Continuity Plan?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, which permit employees to bring their own smartphone, tablet and/or laptop to the workplace for use and connectivity, are slowly making their way into business continuity plans as workaround strategies. While motivated initially by perceived cost savings and productivity gains, business continuity planners are beginning to take note of the BYOD policy benefits for resiliency. Employees equipped to work remotely by using their own devices can keep working even when their offices have to close for weather and other disruptive events.

In this regard, BYOD policies can enhance flexibility after a temporary emergency or longer facility outage by providing employees with the capability of connecting to the workplace and each other anytime and anywhere. This makes BYOD particularly attractive for business continuity plans. However, implementation of a BYOD policy raises potential functional and security issues, and therefore should not be done hastily. For example, it’s not a good idea to quickly adopt such a policy just because severe weather is posing an immediate threat. Instead, the benefits and drawbacks of BYOD for the specific workplace should be carefully considered, taking into account and addressing the following issues: 

  • Acceptable devices and configurations: Clarify which devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) and operating systems the business will support. Once this is determined, interested employees will have to work with I/T personnel to make sure their devices are configured to be compatible with standardly used apps, internet browsers, office productivity software and security tools utilized by the company.
  • Password policy: Employee-owned devices used for work must be password-protected. Enforce a strong password policy requirement (such as an 8-digit alphanumeric password with at least one special character). Decide if passwords should rotate after a certain period of time and if they should lock after a certain number of unauthorized attempts.
  • Access limits: Determine which functions employees can access from their mobile devices (e.g., the entire office suite, corporate email, servers, drives, documents, etc.).
  • Data protection and security: Decide which type of anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-malware should be installed on employees’ mobile devices. Put in place a policy which requires employees to report lost or stolen devices within a specified number of hours.  Businesses should also decide if and how often to conduct I/T audits to confirm employees’ mobile devices are in compliance with the security policy.
  • Reimbursement: Detail if and how employees will be reimbursed for mobile costs (e.g., the actual device, apps used for work purposes, usage charges, extra charges such as roaming charges or plan overages, etc.).
  • Employee termination: It is important to remember to include the steps necessary to disable access to the business’ network and servers as part of the exit interview process. If an employee leaves abruptly, businesses should have the ability to remote-wipe the device to remove its data.
  • Mobile phone numbers: Decide who owns the actual phone number—the business or the employee. Another option is to program the phone with more than one telephone number; there are apps available for download that allow smartphone users to add multiple phone numbers.
  • Signed agreement: Lastly, a business should create an agreement which lays out all of the above details. The agreement should be signed by BYOD employees acknowledging that they have read and understand the policy.

Like other aspects of a business continuity plan, for a post-disaster BYOD strategy to be successful, it is important to include the use of BYOD in periodic testing of how the business will prepare for and respond to an emergency. Periodic testing will disclose issues that will need to be addressed, such as difficulty in accessing central files. Without testing, those issues will stay hidden until it’s too late. Once problems are identified, make sure the plan and the BYOD policy gets updated to account for those issues and weaknesses. Then, practice again as soon as practical to make sure the solutions really work. Testing is the only way to translate BYOD and business continuity strategies into effective action. Otherwise, untested mobile devices and weak BYOD policies will leave a business vulnerable just when it is depending on the system to work.

BYOD is most effective when incorporated into a business continuity plan that focuses on all critical people, operations, information, and financial needs. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) created OFB-EZ®, a free business continuity planning toolkit that helps businesses translate professional continuity concepts into an easy-to-use plan. Small businesses can use OFB-EZ to take advantage of many disaster planning and recovery best practices without the need for a large company budget. Download OFB-EZ today at www.DisasterSafety.org/open-for-business, and consider incorporating the benefits of BYOD into your business continuity plan.

Using Personal Devices for Work Has Become the Norm

 

Use of personal mobile phones for work purposes is widespread in the U.S. at 61%.

49% – Use of personal phone only for work

12% – Use of both personal & company phone for work

Does your employer have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy currently in place?

34% – Yes

50% – No

16% – Don’t use technology devices

Source: Survey by Tyntec, BYOD User Survey Employees’ Choice for Mobility – International Study of BYOD User Preferences, July 2015

Social Media as a Communication Tool

Mobile technology and social media are everywhere—in our pockets and purses, on our wrists, and in our cars—and are changing the way businesses function on a daily basis and how they respond to and recover from a disaster. Just as new technology improves efficiencies in everyday business operations, it also can be incorporated into a business continuity plan to facilitate both work processes and communications if normal systems are damaged or disrupted. That said, the same cyber-security protections developed for regular operations need to be put in place when relying on technology and social media for recovery.

More and more emergency management officials are using social media to warn communities about approaching weather conditions, including how to prepare and what to do after an emergency or disaster. More and more small businesses are also taking advantage of social media to communicate with employees, customers and business partners. This allows them to communicate more quickly, widely, and accurately, leading to more efficient response and recovery efforts, and controlling misinformation and potential rumors.

The social media platforms listed below can all be used to provide important information to employees such as updates on an organization’s status after a disruption, alerts to an unexpected office closure or other schedule change, or details about an alternate location where employees can report to work. Importantly, the information is shared in real time on platforms employees already use and can access on their devices.

LinkedIn

Though primarily used for professional networking, businesses can create LinkedIn members-only groups. With a LinkedIn company group, business owners can create their own company intranet on the LinkedIn platform where they can share information related to a business outage or other emergency with their employees. Members-only group discussions can only be seen by group members and discussions do not appear in search engine results.

Twitter

Twitter offers the ability to create closed groups and private discussions. With the option to tweet privately, business owners can share short bits of information with their employees. Using an emergency employee-only hashtag such as #acmeemployees, business owners can relay important information to their employees.

Facebook

Businesses can create a private Facebook group page for their employees, which can then be used to share information, links, photos, documents and videos. Members of the business’ private Facebook group page are limited to those people invited and confirmed by the group administrator.

Yammer

Access to a Yammer network is determined by a user’s Internet domain, making access available only to those individuals with the organization’s email account. Yammer can be used to quickly disseminate news and keep employees updated.

Deciding which social media platforms will work best for the business owner will depend on several factors—most importantly, the platforms already used by employees should be considered, as these are likely to be the easiest to implement. This determination should be part of pre-disaster planning to ensure the chosen platforms are as effective as possible.

Helpful Web-Based & Online Tools

In addition to social media platforms, there is a wealth of online tools businesses can use to facilitate normal work functions in the event of a business disruption. Below are some of the more popular tools businesses are using to prepare employees for emergencies and their aftermath:

  • VPN for connecting to the network outside of the office
  • Cloud services for storage and file sharing
  • Live video meeting/web-conferencing capabilities to meet with staff (e.g., Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc.)
  • Online text message and notification services for messaging staff and others

The services discussed in this article work best when incorporated into a business continuity tool that focuses on all critical people, operations, information, and financial needs—like IBHS’ OFB-EZ®. This free business continuity planning toolkit helps businesses translate professional continuity concepts into an easy-to-use guide. By using OFB-EZ, a small business can take advantage of many disaster planning and recovery best practices without the need for a large company budget. To download OFB-EZ, go to DisasterSafety.org/ibhs-business-protection/ofb-ez-business-continuity, and incorporate the benefits of today’s technology into your business continuity plan.