How we balance security and usability

Ed Hardie

4th September 2023

Your computer is a tool to help you get your work done. You want it to work properly, and you want it to be available when needed.

Computers can also work against you though, viruses, scams, and other nasties are only a couple of wrong clicks away. So some protections and restrictions are needed, especially when it's company data and resources on the line.

Putting those protections in place, without impacting the usability of a computer can be difficult though. Too many restrictions and you'll struggle to get work done, too few and there might not be any work to do because a hacker has deleted your files. 

Finding that balance is key then, and here's five ways we go about finding it.

Talk to the people using computers

A good understanding into a user, the type of work they do on their computer, their responsibilities, and their role at the organisation should be central to building any security policy. We'll assess whether a particular protection should be applied to all users, or just a subset of users, and that decision will be informed by people's usage, and how sensitive the information they work with is.  A "set and forget" attitude is all too common in IT, and it can often lead to the kind of overbearing policy that leaves computer users frustrated. We like to assess, set, and continue assessing. 

Use the right software and security tools

Not all software is created equally, and bad software is often at the root of usability problems. Be it antivirus software that brings the machine to a crawl, or a dodgy copy of an application that crashes before you've had a chance to save your work. A big part of our job is figuring out which software works well, and how to deploy it in a reliable and secure manner. Our large client base allows us to find the bugs, the things that frustrate and annoy people, and fix them for all of our customers.
Smart device management

Another advantage to having a large user base is that we've pretty much seen it all. Many of the day to day challenges, frustrations, and quirks are familiar to our technical team. If it's something common, and we can't pre-emptively stop it happening, it's likely that we have an internal guide, process, or more often than not, a button available to us to help get the problem sorted as quickly as possible, and out of your way.

Group users together

Often we find that users in similar job roles, or with similar responsibilities face the same IT challenges. A very simple example would be a  marketing team who require access to image editing software. Within this team, 90% of the time it might be one person's responsibility to edit images, but as soon as they go on holiday, problems can arise if other staff don't have access to the image editing software. Sensible grouping of users can negate this problem, and also has the advantage of making staff onboarding much smoother.

Build in redundancy

Whether you accidentally spill coffee on your laptop, leave it on a train, or if it just gives up the ghost and stops working, it's likely going to give you a headache. Especially if you've got a deadline to work to! As we said in the intro, for a computer to be an effective tool, it needs to be working, and you need to have access to your files. That's why we treat computers, the files on them, and a user's software and settings as completely different things, and back them all up separately. Meaning a coffee drowned laptop doesn't need to be painstakingly reconfigured while you pace around tearing your hair out. We just apply your profile to another one, and you can pick up where you left off. Easy.

If all that sounds different to your current experience with your computer at work, get in touch to see if we can help, or have a look at our managed IT service offering.

Contact us

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