While many notebooks and tablets provide embedded cellular modems, some mobile users rely on Wi-Fi networks that may not always be readily available. In a pinch, these users may need to tether their devices to a smartphone or tablet to share a 3G or 4G connection.
Tethering enables one or more clients to use a mobile device as a modem (often referred to as a personal hotspot) to connect to the Internet or a network. Tethering typically occurs today via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but the older practice of using a USB cable still works too.
Tethering offers an attractive option for state and local government workers who suddenly find themselves with a need to connect to a network. The practice enables multiple users to share a single device’s connection and data plan.
But all this flexibility and convenience can lead to cost concerns and security problems unless users heed a few simple precautions. What follows are some pointers about how to use tethering most effectively.
At a minimum, configure WPA2 security on the personal hotspot link. Don’t use the default service set identifiers and security keys; change those security credentials to avoid freeloaders and hackers.
Running both cellular and Wi-Fi radios continuously on a handset can quickly drain the battery. And in many contemporary smartphones, that battery can’t be swapped.
Direct staff to plug into AC power and stash USB-compatible batteries in their travel bags as a backup.
Check with carriers regarding data plan expenses, especially with respect to roaming charges. Some carriers don’t allow tethering, and others charge extra for the privilege. No matter what, it’s possible to quickly consume a large amount of data, especially in shared workgroup settings. Keep an eye on traffic volumes, and switch data plans if necessary.
What’s more, remind users to defer any data transfers that can wait until they can directly connect to a network.
Independent contractors, field audit teams and others who need to work apart from the network will benefit most from tethering, as will individuals with multiple devices sharing a single data plan. But the use of other available Wi-Fi networks (through virtual private networks, of course) often provides higher throughput and lower costs.
Make sure all local operating policies for security, mobility and acceptable use spell out exactly how tethering may be applied, are current with organizational objectives and are in the hands of those who need to know about them.