Misconfiguration and Misuse: Mobile Data Management best practice

Your employees’ smartphones and mobile devices could be racking up their data usage allowance without them even realising and costing your business money. Here Maintel’s Paul Fawcett sets out the best practice to optimise the amount of mobile data used by mobiles within your organisation. 

The two main culprits of bill shock – misconfiguration and misuse

The classic cause of excessive mobile data usage usually comes down to two things; misconfiguration and misuse. 

Even when idle, the phone is still working away in the background, with many different applications connecting to the mobile network in the background, using up mobile data without you knowing. When setting up a device, very often mobile devices are not configured correctly. It’s only after a bill shock incident that steps are taken to rectify this retrospectively. Correct configuration needs to encompass both device and application settings for mobile data usage.

Usage should really be kept to a minimum and for business use, but unless enterprises implement controls to prevent misuse then excessive data charges can accumulate quickly. This can be intentional misuse of the most popular most data hungry consumer applications. Apps that stream music, video, or files will consume data faster than anything else on your phone. Unintentional high usage is often caused by poor initial configuration.

Here I’ve outlined some simple steps you can take around policy, configuration, monitoring and more to maximise your mobile data.

1. Define your company policy

Every company needs a policy that sets company standards for the use of mobile phones and wireless devices within an organisation: This policy will:

  • Enable mobile communications to support employees in their work and enhance productivity
  • Establish acceptable usage, define inappropriate behaviour and limit company liability
  • Protect company data by defining security criteria for mobile devices and the network
  • Ensure mobile communications don’t affect employee safety
  • Improve management and help control the cost of mobility
  • State how IT will manage mobile devices and support mobile users

2. Set rules around the use of personal applications and social media

This company policy in particular should address the following with regard to mobile data usage:

  • Specify a general policy for non-business related data usage (personal usage)
  • Specify whether the company will analyse all internet usage and if excessive use is to be charged to individuals
  • Specify whether certain applications are black-listed and an associated policy should users download these unauthorised applications to their devices

3. Practical configuration and usage tips – both on set-up and day-to-day

More efficient ways to use mobile data can be configured in the mobile device at set-up time. Consider the following when setting up a new device:

  • Ensure operating system updates will download only when connected to Wi-Fi 
  • Disable app updates – so they update over Wi-Fi only
  • Restrict background data usage. Disable background app refresh – choose which apps can use mobile data to refresh their content in the background. This can also conserve battery life.
  • Disable Wi-Fi Assist style features that will use mobile data when Wi-Fi connectivity is limited
  • Disable backups of documents and photos to the cloud over a cellular connection
  • Restrict streaming and downloading of music and podcasts to Wi-Fi only
  • For some users consider a complete mobile data bar at cellular network level

Once the device is set-up correctly then on a day-to-day basis more efficient ways to use mobile data are as follows:

  • Use Wi-Fi wherever possible. Especially when indoors connect automatically to guest or corporate in-building Wi-Fi
  • Encourage use of mobile-friendly websites only - where pages are specially optimised for mobile devices and use less data
  • Use a browser that supports data compression or an app that uses compression technology
  • Mapping and Sat Nav style apps can use up a considerable amount of mobile data. Use offline maps wherever possible.
  • Be wary of email attachments. Most devices don’t automatically download attachments but instead display the attached file size, so when using mobile data be careful what you 'tap to download'

4. Check what applications are using data (and which people are using those apps…)

iOS, Android, and Windows Phones mobile devices have built-in features that let you check which apps use the most cellular data. Most devices include an application that shows a detailed breakdown of data usage and can help avoid unexpected charges by indicating when you're nearing a data limit.
Use this facility to limit or remove high data consuming apps. For example if you don’t use an app enough to justify the amount of data used then remove it or limit how often it syncs.

When a user has incurred excessive charges, use this facility to determine the apps that have used the most data. Determine whether this usage is justifiable business use or not. The apps that use the most data typically are the most used personal apps … Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify and YouTube. 

For example an hour a day on a social media application over a cellular network can use a considerable amount of data, particularly if a) photos and video are pre-loaded or b) video is auto played or c) music is automatically streamed. These apps will have settings to reduce how much data they use and will be need to be configured appropriately.

5. Data saving applications

Various apps are available that use compression technology and VPNs (virtual private networks) to ensure data usage is reduced. Not all apps are supported on all mobile devices. 

Examples include: 

  • Onavo Extend
  • Opera Max and 
  • Wandera

6. Data usage and roaming

  • Ensure that users who travel abroad are responsible for notifying the Company administrators before they travel to ensure the device is activated on the correct roaming tariff
  • Consider disabling mobile data whilst roaming
  • Users must be advised that roamed data charges can be high and they should use free Wi-Fi wherever possible whilst abroad
  • Use mobile-friendly websites only - where pages are specially optimised for mobile phone, thus making them lighter on data
  • Download maps offline - download city or area maps before you leave home

If you would like some more expert guidance on setting your company mobile policy or optimising your company mobile data allowances, get in touch with Maintel.