Why security was the deciding factor in choosing COPE over BYOD
Why security was the deciding factor in choosing COPE over BYOD

The increasing consumerisation of IT has seen employees become far more demanding of their IT departments, and has caused many businesses to re-examine their approach to mobility. A great many IT chiefs have turned to BYOD as a cost-effective way of keeping employees happy. It's understandable, after all, employees get to use the latest devices without requiring a significant investment from the IT department.

It's also a trend that's on the increase. Gartner recently announced that 70 per cent of mobile professionals will conduct their work on their personal smart devices by 2018. However, according to Dell, 50 per cent of its customers with a BYOD policy have experienced a serious security breach – pointing to a much higher risk of security issues on the horizon.

But while it's important to listen to employees' requests, IT departments need to keep the core business needs in mind while rolling out any initiatives aimed at providing employees with more choice and flexibility. The good news is that providing choice and flexibility to employees doesn't have to come at the cost of security.

For the Press Association (PA), smartphones have helped us to retain our competitive edge in an increasingly crowded space. Time is of the essence in modern journalism, and smart devices enable our journalists to write and file their stories from wherever they are, as quickly as possible. We also expect our journalists to have the ability to shoot high definition video, if the story demands it, and upload hi-res photos while they're out in the field.

BYOD could easily be seen as a low cost way of ensuring our journalists have this capability using devices that they are comfortable with. However, it increases risk significantly as they access documents, data and services outside of our IT department's control.

The threat of data loss, losing a device or having it stolen is an unacceptable risk for the sort of sensitive information our journalists deal with at PA every day.

PA worked with EE to develop a corporate owned, personally enabled strategy, otherwise known as COPE. EE provided PA'a team with a range of 850 smart devices including Samsung Galaxy S4 minis, Apple and HTC devices. The COPE strategy is intended to have the best of both worlds and satisfy employees and company needs for strong security.

The result is a secure, reliable and up-to-date mobile fleet which we can manage centrally, while our team get a choice of great devices that they feel comfortable and confident using every day for both work and personal purposes.

This means that we can control security in a way we simply couldn't with BYOD. Security is of paramount importance for us and it was a key factor, along with 4G speed, in deciding what option to go for. While our office and support staff have been given a choice of a range of devices, including Apple and HTC models, our journalists were given Samsung Galaxy S4 Minis which all come with Samsung's Knox security system.

Samsung's Knox security can be used to create a container within each of the phones to enable work documents, emails and contacts to be stored separately from anything personal. Essentially our journalists have two areas on their phones — one for personal use and one for work.

Another way COPE outstrips BYOD is in helping us manage our mobile fleet. As all the devices use EE's mobile device management (MDM) system, which includes MobileIron, we are able to centrally configure and manage all of the devices and provide access to our content management system and the various apps and services the team needs.

At PA, we can help the journalists by recommending apps. We followed this exact principle for last his year's Commonwealth Games, by sending the journalists at the event a text from MobileIron to download the Team GB app. This app was whitelisted and simply installed in the container. An additional benefit is that all whitelisted apps sitting in the Knox container are protected from any malware that could have been installed unknowingly by the user.

We can set policies that are implemented on every device, such as password length and complexity, what data the journalists can and can't see, and which applications they can and can't use. We can also remotely lock and wipe devices if they are ever lost or stolen. Those kind of functionalities and capabilities would be impossible with a BYOD strategy.

BYOD has been seen by many organisations as a saving grace. It's a low-cost, high satisfaction way of ensuring employees are happy with the technology they use for work and the service they receive from their IT department. Given the rapid adoption and projected rise of BYOD, the trend isn't set to abate. However, for many organisations like PA, it simply introduces too many unknown factors and puts too much beyond the control of our IT department for us to be able to seriously consider it as an approach for our mobile fleet.

Staying on top of breaking stories is absolutely critical for us as a news organisation. Implementing a COPE strategy has given us the confidence we need in the security of our team at home and abroad, while also furnishing them with devices they're happy to use for personal purposes. It's enabled us to set the boundaries for the remit of our IT department, which ensures that when it comes to security, the buck still stops with us, not the individual. It also lets our team get back to what they do best, covering breaking news as it happens.

Contributed by David Reed, head of information services and infrastructure at the Press Association