The shift toward remote or hybrid working in South African businesses has been enabled through the rapid adoption of cloud services, with workers being able to carry out their duties from any location. However, this has also resulted in a growing number of employees using their corporate devices and accounts for personal use, which has its own unintended consequences.

And, this is not limited to the use of cloud-based applications. Most modern laptops now come fitted with solid-state drives – which offer higher performance but usually lower capacity – with the operating system already taking up a huge portion of the available on-device storage space, and this makes users reliant on the cloud to store their data. Apart from just overcoming their space constraints, it also means that their data is now available on any connected device.

With many employees now being given devices and access to cloud-based productivity tools by their organisation, they often question the need for subscribing to additional services in their personal capacity. The reality though, is that while your employer might give you access to a productivity suite, these are business accounts, with all information being stored on a corporate shared drive.

When someone leaves an organisation, their account is terminated, while someone else is given access to the cloud storage so that all relevant information can be extracted, reorganised and made available to other employees so that there is no loss of intellectual property.

The real risk for employees who save personal information on corporate cloud accounts is a total loss of access to their data. And, the data lost might not be as trivial as photos and a few letters, but critical information such as financial and legal correspondence, contracts with third-party service providers and more.

Granted, some users might only want to be able to use office productivity applications and not online storage, but the realight is that they should not be using their business account for personal use, or to store their personal information in the first place – even if it is all in neatly arranged folders.

Catering for the whole family

To cater for this growing demand for cloud-based productivity tools for the home, technology providers have introduced subscription plans that are intended for personal use, with options even being tailored to address the needs of the whole family in a far more cost-effective manner. Furthermore, these plans include additional benefits to what can traditionally be found in business plans.

As an example, the Microsoft 365 Family subscription provides up to six family members with access to applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more. The main member or administrator can then assign accounts to each of their family members, with each user then being able to install all the applications on 5 different devices.

This effectively means that the single-family subscription allows users to install all office applications on 30 connected devices legally – be it desktops or laptops powered by Windows or macOS or mobile devices that use Android or iOS.

Each family member also gets 1 terabyte of cloud storage on OneDrive, making it the ideal option for saving all their personal data, while also providing them with a more affordable means of backing up the photos and videos on their mobile devices. They can also easily share folders on their cloud storage with other family members to either just view or even contribute to, such as photo albums and more.

Families can easily stay in touch with each other through video conferencing via Skype, with each family member being given 60 minutes worth of landline calls each month. On the other hand, using Microsoft Teams Personal allows users to create multiple groups within the family in order to have broader conversations.

Safety and security

Premium safety features within the Microsoft 365 mobile application ensures that administrators of the family account are able to monitor how other members are using their devices, what content they are accessing, what they are searching for online and even limit screen time on their devices – making it especially useful to manage the online activities of children.

Furthermore, the family subscription also unlocks location alerts and driving safety features within the mobile application. This provides more information on where family members are, what their average speed is if they are in a vehicle and much more.

The subscription also helps users protect themselves against cyberthreats to a certain extent – as an added bonus, OneDrive ransomware recovery allows users to recover previous file versions for up to 30 days prior from the date of the attack.

In all, Microsoft 365 subscriptions aimed at personal use – and more especially the family plan – provides users with far more value, at a very low entry point, than them risking the loss of valued or even critical information (or flouting company policy) by making use of productivity applications, cloud storage, or even licences for installed software programmes, that are meant for business use.