Business and the two mobile conundrum

Multiple Mobiles
Image supplied by flickr.com/photos/athomeinscottsdale/

Over the years it has become increasingly more common to have two mobile phones, your own personal one, and one issued by your place of work. With the trend in increased phone sizes and some smartphones now having screens in excess of 4.5″, walking around with two ‘bricks’ can be far from desirable. To counter this, some businesses allow their employees to use their personal mobiles for work, and pay an allowance or expenses claim, but is this a smart idea?

Allowing a personal mobile for business use may seem like an innocent activity designed to make things easier for your staff, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The modern smartphone is nothing less than a hand-held computer and should be treated as such. Many businesses would not allow their staff to bring in their personal laptops and connect them to the company’s network, and for very good reason. Some organisations take this level of paranoia to even higher levels by not even allowing memory sticks of unknown origin to be plugged into a device connected to their network. So why allow a smartphone to connect to the very same network?

Rogue software already exists on Android, it is an unfortunate side-effect of the many benefits delivered by an open system. How long before such rogue software exists to exploit corporate networks? It may exist already.

If your company already has policies in place to prevent foreign devices from connecting to your company network, then those same policies should extend to mobile devices. It seems then that we a doomed to return to a ‘two brick’ system, or are we?

Mobiles already exist that can take two SIM cards or more, these are far more popular in the Far East than in Europe or North America, but they may make their way here, however, this does not really solve the problem. Being able to switch from SIM to SIM might work well at controlling expenses and who gets billed for what, but regardless of SIM, the same malicious software could still be operating on that device.

It seems the only solution would be a software that offers some sort of ‘profile switching’. As with BlackBerry, a system administrator can control what software can be installed and used on the handset, it shouldn’t be too hard to implement something similar for Android. Some clever profile switching could have the user presented with two different environments on their mobile, preferences, software and permissions – effectively two phones in one.

I’m over-simplyfying things a little here, but there is the essence of an idea there that could address the two phone conundrum. By allowing a phone to only connect to the company network when it is using the company approved profile could be a huge leap in the right direction.

What’s the policy on mobiles where you work? Are you burdened with carrying around more than one mobile?

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