An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away, but it May Make the Sharks Come Circling
Monday, September 17, 2012 • 4:34pm
Today, small business has moved into the digital era, and for many, Apple has led the digital revolution for this segment of the market. In fact, the results of a recent national survey of small business owners and CEOs conducted by the Business Journals1, makes it clear that the iPad is the new Apple of the eye of small business.
According to the survey, the use of iPads in small business has nearly quadrupled from a 9% usage rate in 2010 to a 34% usage rate in 2011. This staggering growth is expected to continue since the third generation of iPad was released in early 2012.
Small business owners cited accessibility as the leading cause for the growth of the iPad’s popularity. Unfortunately, not everything about the iPad is great for small business. All the accessibility the small business owners rave about also opens them to a slew of new potential problems they need to be aware of and prepared for to be able to properly protect their business from exposure.
Chief among small business owners’ concerns needs to be protecting the business’, and perhaps more importantly the business’ customers’ sensitive and personal information. Having this information accessible to the owner and his/her employees means it is also accessible to competitors and third-parties. Protecting information gives rise to the second issues small business owners face, namely, control over the iPad.
If the iPad is owned by the small business and supplied for the employee’s use, then the business can maintain more control. Ownership allows the business owner to dictate how and when the iPad is used, not to mention control over the safety protocols installed on the device. Business ownership of the iPad also alleviates concerns with employee privacy when it comes to the business’ review of a personally owned iPad that contains both business and personal information.
If the small business does not want to invest in supplying its own iPads to employees, the alternative is allowing employees to supply their own personal iPads for business use. In addition to the aforementioned privacy concerns, this approach could lead to a problem of the employee leaving the business and taking confidential information with him or her on the personal iPad. There are special applications and software that can be installed to protect and/or wipe business or confidential information from the iPad in the event of loss, theft or an employee leaving, but the business might not be able to get these installed on a personally owned iPad.
While security applications installed directly on the device are nice, the first thing a small business needs when it decides to utilize iPads, and this is regardless of who owns the tablet, is a well-defined iPad user policy. The policy should be similar to the company’s internet and email policy. When the business can potentially be vicariously liable if an employee commits a crime while using the business’ network, the business needs to be clear and upfront about what is and is not acceptable use.
As has been demonstrated by the devices that preceded it, and its own rapid popularity, the iPad can be a great device for the small business owner. But as with all advancements, there are pitfalls that go along with it. If the small business owner is aware of the potential challenges and prepared to face them head-on or better yet, cut them off at the pass, then he or she should be able to take full advantage of the opportunities that are created by integrating the iPad into their business.
Michael Zoller, an attorney in the litigation practice at Pashman Stein in Hackensack, NJ. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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