More than 15% of the workforce in the European Union are described as ‘mobile workers’, which is defined as those employees who work more than ten working hours each week away from their primary workplace or home.
However, remote working and bring your own device (BYOD) can have serious security implications, particularly in the health sector, where workers are accessing confidential patient data remotely.
There have been numerous reports in the UK of health records containing sensitive patient data getting into the wrong hands. Health organisations therefore need to look at how they realise cost and productivity savings through remote working, while assuring robust security.
Organisations need to support complex hardware and software solutions that demand a high level of management, while employees are frustrated by always-on web access requirements, slow performance and an inability to get the assets they need wherever they are. Fighting this control, employees sometimes work around policies by sending sensitive documents to personal e-mail accounts, using cloud-based file sharing websites and using unencrypted USB sticks.
Mobile workers in healthcare carry and access personal health information, R&D data and their organisation’s enterprise applications and databases. Their actions could therefore compromise data security regulations, which could have serious repercussions for the organisation.
These risks are heightened in a world where BYOD is fast becoming the norm. Workers are increasingly requesting or being asked by their employers to use home computers or to connect to corporate environments.
A viable solution is creating a portable workspace using Windows To Go, a new feature of Windows 8 Enterprise. Windows To Go is a PC-on-a-stick solution that provides health workers with a fully-functional, manageable Windows workspace booted from a USB drive. This gives a remote worker access to a provisioned and managed Windows 8 solution that replicates the secure desktop environment they use in the office, on any device that the USB is plugged into. Microsoft-certified Windows To Go devices are available with always-on hardware encryption, password protection and optional central management for setting strong password policies, tracking devices and even a ‘remote kill’ command to prevent the use of lost or stolen devices.
Users can access data and applications from the USB drive completely isolated from the host machine’s hard disk, but can still use the host computer’s microphone, webcam and audio system, internet connection and other hardware. Doctors and other staff can securely access patient data wherever they are. This way of remote working can even enable hospital operations to continue during power outages or natural disasters.
If deployed correctly, Windows To Go solutions hold the potential to offer IT managers and remote workers the best of both worlds. Choosing solutions that best mix performance, security and control will help maximise remote workers’ productivity, while ensuring that data and application access control remain firmly in the hands of the IT department.
Nicholas Banks is head of Imation’s IronKey solutions in EMEA and APAC. This article was first published in the Winter 2013 issue of Touch.
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