If your family has more personal gadgets than actual family members, you’re not alone. As devices get faster, smaller, and cheaper, it’s all but too common that everybody in your family owns at least 2+ mobile devices because…technology.
Multiple family devices means more pictures, videos, accounts, passwords, and other precious data being used, shared, and possibly lost or worse that the family IT person has to manage (I’ll give you one guess who assumes that role in our family).
This issue is all to common in the workplace, where companies have spent millions on trying to figure out the best way to manage the flood of mobile devices being used on the job.
What about family mobile device management? Family gadgets and data needs to be protected as well. So here are some quick and easy tips, tricks, and services that can help you organize, track, and secure your family devices and data.
Probably more important than the devices themselves is the data being captured, collected and shared on them. So it’s paramount that you develop some sort of backup strategy for all your devices. It’s a good idea to create one family cloud backup storage account (there are many, so pick your poison based on family device types, space needs, and budget) and create a folder for each family member to immediately backup and sync photos, videos, and other commonly used files. That way each family member doesn’t have a separate account (with a separate bill) to manage.
In addition, I would suggest a local, non-cloud backup plan as well that will save device settings/configurations, text messages, app downloads, and other data not compatible with cloud storage services. Start with the mobile devices and back those up directly to a computer. If your family is in camp iOS, backup to iTunes. If your family is Android, the free of charge Android File Transfer or Kies software (Samsung devices) works well. Same goes for Windows Phone, the free Windows Phone Desktop software is enough to get all your basic device settings, content, and related information backed up locally.
Next step is to take that computer with all the phone information and regularly (once a week) back it up to an external Hard Drive, just in case that computer is damaged or just flat out dies because…technology. Make sure the external Hard Drive has atleast twice the storage capacity of the computer you’re backing up. The 3rd step is to regularly back up that external drive in the cloud with services like Backblaze, Crashplan, or Carbonite to ensure you have an off-site (out of your house) copy of all your content.
Sounds like a bunch of steps, but it’s a good thing to have redundant copies of your content in multiple locations and formats. Also, most services for the smaller devices offer an immediate “as soon as this device connects to wifi” or “as soon as this device is connected to this computer” backup schedule. For the larger devices, you can create a schedule where the device automatically backs up at a set time, preferably when device usage is at a minimum.
There are SO many mobile apps, and web only services that need your username/email and a password in order to use. Multiply that by how many tech-savvy family members you have and how many devices per family member, and that makes for a large amount of passwords with private information floating around.
I shouldn’t have to remind you to use a different, complex password/passphrase for each account. As I type this, there are some passwords that even I need to change so they are more secure…so I’m not excused from this request.
To make password management easier for your family (an excel spreadsheet is NOT a good look), there are services like RoboForm, 1Password, and LastPass (what I use for my family) that can handle all of your password needs.
Password Generation – Not only can a password manager make it easy to access all your passwords, you can also use them to randomly create long, complex, multiple character passwords that you don’t have to remember. Once you’ve assigned a username and generated a password for the service, just logging into your password manager gives you the ability to copy/paste, or automatically fill in your credentials, sans password memorization.
Online Form Fill – Password managers also lets users store commonly used information online (name, address, security questions, etc.) and use that information to automagically fill in those spots when you create new accounts.
Multi-User Support – If you, your spouse/partner, and of-age kids all use similar services (Twitter, Facebook, etc), password managers will let you create individual groups/identities that you can assign to a family member so they only see their account information to keep confusion down.
Security Checks – If you have some weak passwords that need to be updated, most password managers have built-in security checks where it will scan all your entries and identify those accounts where the login credentials could be improved.
Mobile access – Since most of your time is spent on your mobile device, the services I mentioned all have mobile, cross-platform apps that enable your family members to access their account information on all of their devices.
Now I know what Mrs. Tech you’re thinking: “What happens if/when somebody hacks into the password manager service I’m using?”. That is a good question and it’s a possibility it could happen. Without getting too deep in to encryption keys and all that jazz, Let’s just say when you create an account and start creating login credentials, all of that information is encoded (scrambled). When you log in to your account via your computer, tablet, or mobile device, the service creates a special key for that device so it can decode (unscramble) your account credentials.
If somebody hacks the service and gains access to your accounts, that person still needs the special key created for your device to decode the information. Until they have your account information and your device, all they will see is scrambled characters. Now if somebody gets ahold of your device, that’s another story. All the more reason to make sure you have a pin/passcode on your device.
Mobile Device Management Software
If your device is lost/stolen and you feel all the data on your phone is at risk, iOS (iCloud), Android (Android Device Manager), and Windows Phone (via Windows Phone services) have built-in ($free.99) features where you can track the location of your device, and remove all your personal data from the device remotely.
If you want to go a little deeper and monitor the activity of each device in your family, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money for a complex, server based, per-license piece of software where you have to get certified just to use it.
Albeit a small number, there are some low cost, consumer-friendly services like 3CX Mobile Device Manager, that will enable you to setup and deploy mobile devices in your ‘family organization’ where you can view logs, run reports, and monitor the overall status and usage of each device, alloy/deny access to calling phone numbers, downloading apps, or visiting websites, in addition to tacking device locations and remote wiping data.
The more mobile devices families are starting to use to stay connected, the more attention should be paid to managing those devices to make sure they remain safe and secure.
Do you have a family mobile device management strategy?
Plug: Hit me up if you’re interested in developing a mobile device management strategy for your family