'Tis the Season To Be Mobile: What Businesses Can Do To Prepare

This year is shaping up to be a very mobile Christmas. Whether this makes IT organizations merry or not depends on their level of preparedness. New iOS and Android device activations this holiday are expected to top last year's record of 50 million. Also, in keeping with recent trends, more employees will be working remotely over the holidays. In fact, 75 percent of IT managers have seen an increase in remote workers in the last few years, according to a recent Spiceworks study.

As employees travel over the river and through the woods this holiday season, there's a good chance they are taking company data with them. Many businesses generate significant revenues over the holidays and at the end of the calendar year, so key employees, like sales, support, logistics and accounting, need to stay on top of business while away. To do this, employees often load their notebooks or tablets with data before they leave for vacation, or worse, upload data to their private Dropbox or other cloud storage accounts. This represents a huge security risk if an employee's device gets stolen, their personal storage account gets compromised, or they inadvertently share data with the wrong party. It's no surprise that the same study found IT managers are more concerned with security than any other IT challenge today.

One way to keep your employees connected and your data safe over the holidays is to provide them with secure network access to business files and applications from anywhere and any device. The cloud can help businesses reduce time-to-deliver and costs of IT computing services like applications, email, and servers by eliminating hardware, licensing fees, and staff-related costs.

Cloud networking is a new category of cloud-based services that enables any size business to provide employees with simple and secure access from anywhere and any device. It works by securely extending the office LAN over the Internet so that files and applications that have traditionally been locked behind the company firewall are accessible anywhere there's an Internet connection. Because it's a cloud-based service, it can be set-up in minutes, requires no hardware, and you only pay for what you need.

Here are five simple tips to keep businesses and employees connected and data safe while away from the office:

Tip #1: Define What's Naughty and Nice in Advance
Businesses should be proactive about setting acceptable use policies for employees regarding remote access and mobile devices. Doing so in advance will let employees plan ahead, and help IT avoid last minute support calls.

Tip #2: Don't Wait Till the Last Minute To Do Your IT Shopping
Most employees take extra time off around the holidays and, increasingly, businesses are shutting down altogether between Christmas and New Years. IT pros can prepare in advance by using cloud networking to spin up remote access capacity to meet the holiday demand in minutes, and then turn-off what they don't need afterwards.

Tip #3: Don't Let The Grinch Steal Your Device and Data
Since people are out and about over the holidays, it's a perfect time for criminals to steal your mobile device and all of your data along with it. The National Consumers League reveals that 1.6 million Americans had personal devices stolen in 2012, and Flyertalk states that 624,000 laptops go missing each year--just from airports.

Using cloud networking, if an employee's laptop or mobile device does get stolen, it can be removed from the network with a single click.

Tip #4: Make Sure You're The Only One Checking Your List Twice
Everyone has grown accustomed to using a public Wi-Fi hotspot at the coffeehouse, airport or even the mall to browse the web, do online shopping or check email. However, most people don't realize that they're on a shared network with everyone else making any unencrypted data sent over the connection. Using free software such as Firesheep, criminals eavesdrop on your data as it goes across the network and "sidejack" your device to access your personal information. There are 24 million Wi-Fi networks worldwide, according to Private Communications Corporation, and half are unencrypted.

Businesses can protect employees and their devices by using a cloud-based network, commonly referred to as a cloud-based VPN, that encrypts all data as it traverses the public Wi-Fi hotspot.

Tip #5: Keep Your Data Home (On Your Server) For The Holidays
By deploying a cloud networking solution that provides your employees with access to behind-the-firewall files from anywhere and any device, you can keep your critical business files safely at home on the server over the holidays. Cloud networks can make accessing files remotely as easy as in the office, so employees won't be compelled to take files with them when they leave the office, or worse, upload them to their personal Dropbox account.

These tips can help ensure you and your employees stay merry over the holiday.