Corporate layoffs: Prepare your BYOD smartphone for the worst

If you use your smartphone for work, don't be caught short if the unthinkable happens.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Companies often cut costs by laying off staff, and it can be devastating for those employees who are let go. It's a trying time, often with unforeseen consequences for the newly unemployed. Those using their smartphone in BYOD programs should prepare for the worst.

BYOD phones usually have both personal and corporate data on them. While the enterprise shouldn't care about the worker's own data, it's a personal phone after all, for those being laid off they will be very concerned about the company's information.

Hopefully your phone was properly provisioned when first brought to work, so personal and work information is totally segregated. That makes it possible for the company to wipe its data in the event of the worker's termination while leaving personal information alone.

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Even so, there's nothing wrong with preparing your phone to make sure your personal data is safe no matter what the company does. It's your precious photos (and other information) at stake, so as soon as layoff rumors start swirling, don't take a chance that the company that may be firing you will do the right thing to protect your data.

Hopefully you regularly back up your personal stuff, but even so, when the scuttlebutt about possible layoffs starts making the rounds, begin doing so religiously. The more frequently you back up your personal data, the less of it will be lost should the worst happen and the company wipes your phone. They can probably do that remotely, and may do so unexpectedly on layoff day.

You probably back your phone up to the cloud, but it's a good idea to also do so to an external memory card or a computer. This gives you total control over saving the information for restoring post-layoff. It might be a good idea to delete photos and the like off the phone once backed up to keep them away from the company.

Once you're backing up your stuff, think about the company's data. While the IT folks should be able to wipe it if the time comes, don't give them any room to accuse you of taking any company information with you. Don't go looking around company data, just access files to do your job.

One way to do that is to stop using the company network for any personal tasks as soon as the possibility of a layoff arises. Use your phone's 4G LTE connection for everything non-work related without exception. Don't give them any way to claim you have been snooping around. You especially don't want to defend yourself against false claims that you deleted corporate data.

This may seem paranoid, but there's no better time to be cautiously paranoid than at layoff time. Getting cut is gut-wrenching enough without dealing with spurious accusations. It's better to play it safe.

Things could be even worse at small, informally run companies. Without formal procedures in place, the small business may wipe employee phones completely in the event of layoffs. This is where backups will be a lifesaver.

While most companies should handle staff cuts properly, the layoff process may be the first for even large corporations since implementing BYOD. Even though an employee's phone is their own, because it has company data on it most companies will err on the side of protecting corporate information. The simple process of terminated employees just handing in the company phone and leaving goes out the window in BYOD settings.

That makes it worth taking some time to make sure your data is safe and under your control. Even if you escape the layoff, it's still a good thing to be careful with your data in BYOD situations.

Hopefully getting laid off will never happen to you. To be safe, it's better to spend a little time to protect your precious videos of Junior. Don't let them disappear forever.

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