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Home Worker Security Is Business Security

The news that IBM will no longer reimburse home-based workers for their Internet connections makes you wonder if Big Blue is going to make home-workers and telecommuters responsible for their own security. And that raises the question of how far you should go to make sure your off-site employees are using sound security sound security practices and procedures.

Keith Ferrell

April 2, 2009

2 Min Read

The news that IBM will no longer reimburse home-based workers for their Internet connections makes you wonder if Big Blue is going to make home-workers and telecommuters responsible for their own security. And that raises the question of how far you should go to make sure your off-site employees are using sound security sound security practices and procedures.IBM's decision to cut reimbursement for home-based workers' broadband will save the company around $16 million domestically.

No word on what it will cost the company if workers move to cheaper, less reputable service providers than they may choose if the cost is company-covered.

No word either on what IBM's policy is toward home-worker and telecommuter security, but it's a fairly easy guess that if the company won't pay the $30 or so a month for a broadband, it's probably cutting corners on security reimbursements, too.

Like I said, that's a guess and an assumption, and I'll be happy to be corrected.

But it raises the question of what small and midsized businesses, more cost-conscious by an order of magnitude than IBM, should pay for when it comes to home-based employees.

Especially when it comes to the security tools that will, after all, be protecting your business data.

I can see, for instance, striking a balance when it comes to paying for broadband -- figure that the employee (and other members of the employee's family) will be using the connection for personal and social purposes as well as its business use. Take a look at your budget and see if splitting the difference is a good fit:

Especially if you've requested or instructed the employee to work from home, a 50% underwrite of their connection costs seems reasonable. (And is a pretty good perk: some of the concerns about IBM's cutback revolves around its effect on recruitment.)

Security's another matter. Again, depending on your budget, providing subscriptions to effective anti-malware, anti-spyware, e-mail filtering and other tools, of a level and order equal to those you have on your network is an investment as well as a business expense, and one you should be making.

It's also a pretty good perk, particularly if it's accompanied by thorough instruction in both how anti-malware works, as well as safe surfing and social networking practices.

Thinking about sensitive -- and possibly compliance-regulated -- data on a home computer puts the issue in even sharper relief:

It's no so much whether you can afford to cover your remote employees' security costs, it's a question of how much it might cost you not to.

Let me know what you think -- and how your business is handling the issue.

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