Small Business and the Tablet Revolution

December 4, 2012

Tablets are growing in popularity in small businesses, where the usage rate of tablets has nearly quadrupled in the last two years. 

Small business owners have heralded the accessibility of the devices as the chief reason for the increased utilization, but while accessibility is great, tablets also bring their own set of concerns.

Each small business owner needs to be aware of these issues before they decide to deploy tablets in their day-to-day operations.

There are two ways for a small business to bring tablets into the fold: (1) the business supplies the tablets to its employees or (2) the employees uses their own personal tablets for business purposes. 

Option 1 would cost the business more upfront as the business would be responsible for the startup costs, but it could save the business money in the long run as the business would retain more control over the devices. 

When the business has control over the tablet, it can mandate access to the device to monitor how it is used.  Business owned tablets also avoid the privacy issues that arise from an employee using a personal device for mixed business and personal purposes.

Related to the issue of control is protection of confidential information.  If an employee is using a personal tablet and it contains the business’ confidential information then that employee could leave with that information if he was to be fired or quit. 

Additionally, while business owners praise the accessibility of tablets, it must be kept in mind that information that is more accessible to them is also more accessible to third parties.

The best way to protect confidential information is through the installation of special software that allows the tablet to be wiped of sensitive information in the event of an employee leaving or the tablet being stolen.

If the business owns the tablet it can have this software installed before the tablet is put in use.  When the tablet is personally owned, mandating this type of software becomes more complicated.

There’s also a liability issue. If an employee accesses a business’ network to use a tablet to commit a crime, then the business could potentially be liable along with the employee. 

This is a concern regardless of who owns the tablet.  The best way to limit a business’ potential liability is to have a tablet user policy in place before any employee is allowed to access the business’ network. 

The policy should explicitly state what is and is not proper use of the network.  The policy should be reviewed and signed by each employee prior to accessing the network and the employer should monitor for compliance.  If this is done it will greatly limit a business’ potential openness to liability.


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