Insurance firm Hamilton Fraser has signed up with MobileIron to help it roll out a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy across the business.
The company specialises in home insurance and is one of the government’s major contractors for the deposit protection scheme, made compulsory in 2006, which gives both landlords and tenants an independent arbitrator to solve any disputes when moving from a rented property.
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Hamilton Fraser’s main base is in Barnet, North London, where it houses 125 employees. The company has a big focus on technology, with 23 of its staff working in IT roles.
“My own vision centres on the fact technology is always on the move,” says Pete Agathangelou, IT manager at Hamilton Fraser.
“Business resilience and security is such a huge area in terms of credibility for a firm like us, for potential partners, customers and anyone we serve. That means it is very high on my list, when I am looking at solutions, that they are resilient and secure,” he says.
“It is a double-edged sword. Technology moves so fast, but so do security threats, and because we are tied to government contracts we need to make sure everything is secure, especially while working towards our IS27001 compliance,” he adds.
Read more about BYOD
Agathangelou began thinking about BYOD in 2012 when he saw the office environment begin to change.
“I noticed the youngsters who work for the company in the kitchen on a lunchtime on their mobile devices, playing games and contacting each other on social networks. Then I started to notice how the devices were being used by senior managers who wanted to have their email on the go,” he says.
“Both these scenarios pose a risk. A disgruntled employee could easily send out emails uncontrolled if you aren’t careful,” he adds.
The IT team had already embraced mobility by rolling out corporate iOS devices – iPhones and iPads – as these were both cost-effective and popular with staff.
“We had a look at what was available, and as a relatively small company the overheads were not too bad,” says Agathangelou. In contrast, the cost of a full corporate roll-out of BlackBerry devices would be difficult to justify for a small business, he adds.
However, Hamilton Fraser realised Apple devices were not the only ones employees were using on the corporate network.
“You cannot control what people are going to bring in, and there is no question iOS is extremely popular, especially with our board members and the business development people,” he says. “But, at the same time, you can’t ignore the fact Samsung is the biggest shipper of smartphones, so Android is still a huge area for us.
We needed something that would be reliable enough to cope with whatever the industry throws at us and we wanted to make sure it was not just about the price
Pete Agathangelou, Hamilton Fraser
“We needed something that would be reliable enough to cope with whatever the industry throws at us and wanted to make sure it was not just about the price.”
Securing network access
In September 2012, Agathangelou asked his team to draw up a list of suppliers which could help identify the size of the existing problem and find ways to tackle the issue of access to the corporate network with unauthorised devices.
Trials and testing then began on both paid for and free solutions to see what would give the best results for Hamilton Fraser’s environment.
“The BYOD market is extremely fast moving, so we knew we would have to review the strategy on an almost annual basis to make sure we were compatible with any changes,” says Agathangelou.
“MobileIron was not the cheapest, but the GUI [graphical user interface] was straightforward and did not have the same delay issues as some of the others,” he adds.
“The support from partner IT Security Experts [ITSE] was excellent, and features such as retiring a device from a system and it never receiving corporate email again was better than wiping it. We conducted the survey over a couple of months and found MobileIron was the best fit.”
After deployment by ITSE, which took no more than a day and a half, the IT team was able to establish how many people were accessing the network for business purposes and whether they were using an approved device or circumventing the system another way.
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Acceptable use policy
“This was the first stage of our ongoing strategy with MobileIron,” says Agathangelou. “Now we are working on the second stage, which is tying those users down.”
Teaming up with human resources, the IT department has created an acceptable use policy and is raising awareness among staff.
Those who want to use their own devices must have an application downloaded to their mobile or tablet that will enable IT to wipe any corporate data from the device if it is lost or stolen, or wipe the entire device if the employee so wishes.
“The user policy has been accepted and, in most cases, people have been reasonably positive,” says Agathangelou. “People don’t have anything to fear – all it does is validate the way they access the data. The way we have handled the communications has involved marketing and explained what we are doing and why.”
Hamilton Fraser is continuing its relationship with MobileIron going forward, and has regular contact with ITSE to keep on top of any future features it could add to its BYOD deployment.