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7/18/2012
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BYOD Warrior? Have Contingency Plans For Disaster

Smartphones fail. tablets get damaged, and Internet services go down. Knowing that you have a backup plan and that it works brings peace-of-mind. In this article we tell you how to keep yourself protected.

Employees who use their own devices for work also should have a contingency plan for when things fail. The more personal devices and services an employee uses for work, the more detailed that plan should be.

A BYOD contingency plan is not so different from one that is used in the enterprise. For example, IT departments maintain redundant ISPs, regularly schedule fail-overs to a co-location, and randomly restore backups to make sure the data is recorded properly. Knowing that backup plan works brings peace-of-mind.

Image courtesy of Xigo

The IT department's contingency plans can get very specific: What if employees can't get in the building because a steam pipe burst nearby? Or what if both ISPs fail? More businesses are hiring ethical hacking teams to discover and close vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

You probably don't need to hire an ethical hacker, but there are simple steps all BYOD warrior can take to prevent problems from becoming nightmares.

For instance, a laptop can store a small business's entire data. If it were snatched during a break at a conference would you know what was lost? With any luck your wouldn't be stolen, because you had encrypted the drive--all laptops should use encrypted drives and strong passwords. But if the data wasn't backed up to another location, then it's gone. Ideally your IT department has a mechanism to save data to a server either through a VPN or remote session. If not, set up an automated method for your data to a secure cloud service. Remember, backups to a Time Machine volume or something similar on the computer itself won't help you if the computer is gone or the hard drive is physically damaged.

But what if you lose your password to your cloud storage service? What if you lose all your passwords because you kept them in a file on the laptop? Your network admin can change your password in a few seconds, but to have to hunt down the rest of your passwords puts you at the mercy of each provider, and that's assuming you remember your usernames. You'll eventually restore them but a backup would have saved hours of calls and e-mails with banks and other services.

You can call the bank if your cell phone wasn't lost, stolen, or dropped. The phone is the single most important device to keep safe because it has tentacles into all aspects of your business. Not far back, when you lost the company-issued Blackberry, you'd get a new one that day and IT would take care of the paperwork. Lose your phone today and you're on your own. The right insurance plan will replace it overnight. Plans start at about $100 annually. If your company is already paying for the cellular service, see if it can also cover the insurance. Covering it is in their interest.

Along with the contacts list in your lost phone, you've lost immediate access to your email, texts, and calendars. You also might have lost your RSA Secure ID token for authentication and with it remote access to your network. Where would you be without your phone right now? Using a leash will prevent drops and snatches. QuicKlip sells one for $20.

Another option, if you have lost your phone but still have Internet access, is to keep some money in a Skype account so that you can make outside calls using your computer. A USB headset like this one can come in handy. For a small regular fee you can also have a Skype phone number so people can reach you.

Keep all your devices fully charged in case of a power failure. A fully charged laptop could connect to a Verizon Jetpack for hours. The Jetpack or AT&T's Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G or NetZero's 4G Mobile Broadband each are necessary redundancies to your home ISP.

If you haven't taken these steps yet, it's time to get to work on your contingency plan, before you need it. Get that cell phone insurance and a secure redundant set of passwords. Keep a hard copy of critical data, such as contacts and phone numbers, especially the number of your phone insurer. Find out McDonald's and Starbucks' hours of operation.

Businesses create contingency plans and the better ones regularly test those plans. Employees who are using their own devices and services should do the same.

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