Chat and messaging apps are everywhere. Ask any smartphone user which app he or she uses most frequently, and the answer will probably be Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
There are more than 1 billion monthly WhatsApp users worldwide, and Facebook Messenger isn’t far behind. The use of messaging apps for enterprise communications is growing, too. In May, Slack reported that its daily users had tripled to 3 million in less than a year.
But most businesses aren’t using specialist software; they’re using consumer tools instead, and that presents a major problem for security professionals.
Are Consumer Messaging Apps Safe for Business?
Only 17 percent of respondents to a recent Infinite Convergence Solutions poll said their companies had their own internal mobile messaging apps. Most used Facebook, Skype, or Gchat instead.
None of these programs offers end-to-end encryption as standard or audit logs that a company can monitor. And that makes life difficult for IT security professionals attempting to track whether important or confidential information is leaving the company.
It’s a recipe for illegal activity and liability issues; the damage could be severe.
Imagine an employee is fired but nobody remembers to remove him from the Skype chat room. Perhaps he moves to a rival company or holds a grudge against his former employer. There’s no telling what damage he could do with access to that chat room.
It can also have consequences for the day-to-day running of a business. There’s no unified enterprise search for Facebook Messenger, Skype, Gchat, and other personal communication channels; all the data generated is either lost or rendered inaccessible. Businesses function through institutional memory, and these messaging apps are threatening that foundation.
Should Businesses Abandon Messaging Apps?
But company executives shouldn’t jump ship on internal messaging just yet. Consumer tools might not serve the interest of businesses, but enterprise apps have a future in internal communication.
These tools bring obvious benefits. They encourage communication and help keep remote workers in touch. If managed correctly, they can even drive serious efficiency gains.
And that requires a balance. Engineers aren’t usually expected to reply to emails within 24 hours, but with a messaging app they might be bombarded with 40 or 50 alerts every hour. Can they really get in a good eight hours of coding with that distraction?
How Can a Company Stay Safe With a Messaging App?
Finding that balance will be essential to ensuring messaging apps help, rather than hinder, businesses. Telling people not to use apps has failed, so companies must find a credible alternative to stay safe.
Here are four tips to help you find the best app for your needs and ensure your employees don’t compromise its security:
1. Match your compliance. Compliance requirements are the most important considerations when choosing an app. If you have healthcare compliance requirements, then you need a tool that matches that need. The last thing you want is to buy a piece of software and discover it doesn’t meet your security requirements.
2. Test your options. There’s no need to roll out a new solution across the entire company in one day. Launch a new solution within a single department to see how employees interact with the tool. Don’t fall for the hard sell from the salesperson on the other end of the phone. Take your time to consider all your alternatives.
3. Adopt reasonable policies. Don’t force employees to navigate the new tool unassisted. Provide three to five simple policies to guide its usage. For example, don’t let people respond to messages on Slack by text. Those messages need to be read; lax communication policies are a surefire way to ensure work doesn’t happen.
4. Educate your employees. The interface might give the impression of a casual conversation, but your employees need to learn that electronic communication is permanent. People need to take the same care they would with emails and recognize that even the best platforms can be hacked.
So don’t take the easy option of adopting consumer technology. Find a messaging app that meets your compliance needs, try it out, and ensure your employees understand how to use it securely.
This article was written by Mark Handermann from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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