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If you have a smartphone, you no doubt use it for more than just SMS messages and phone calls, and with today’s 24/7 work demands, you’re probably using it for the odd bit of work too. The next step is to then use your smartphone, or other mobile device, while at work, in place of or in addition to your normal desktop or laptop. This last step is becoming known as BYOD, or “Bring Our Own Device”. Is BYOD already happening at your place of work?
When employees use their own device for work, it can be hard for their company to manage what the user is doing, after all it’s a personal item. Add to this the growing number of malware programs aimed at stealing information from devices, and you’ve got an issue that’s not going to go away anytime soon.
What Exactly is BYOD?
BYOD came about when businesses began to assign laptops to employees for use at home or on the road. Companies quickly came to realize that the laptops were not as secure as the desktops at the office, and that employees were also using the laptops for personal use. To address this, companies introduced security measures and procedures to keep data on the laptops safe, while limiting personal use. This worked well until the introduction of the smartphone, which has now given employees the ability to access their office data on their personal devices, and has moved them off the machines provided by the company. Because of this trend, companies are being forced to examine or implement a BYOD policy.
Pros of BYOD
The most obvious benefit of BYOD is the fact that the cost of the the technology is shifted from your company to the user. Think about it: no more costly hardware upgrades and minimal to nonexistent upkeep costs, thus bringing about significant savings.
The next upside to BYOD is user satisfaction. If your employees are allowed to use their own devices, they’ll generally be more satisfied with the systems they’re using, because they’ve already made the personal choice to buy that particular device.
There are some ancillary advantages to BYOD as well, including having employees on the most up-to-date systems, as many employees will buy newer, or top of the line models. The other advantage is that the usually slow update cycle can be exterminated, employees will be in charge of keeping their devices current, not the company.
Cons of BYOD
As with all stories, there are two sides to this one. The biggest disadvantage of BYOD is that you’ll lose control of the hardware, and employees will generally be more reticent in allowing other employees to use their device.
Another major issue to overcome is usage policies. As employees will be using their own device, it’ll be harder to tell them what is considered acceptable use. As opposed to when employees are using company devices you can implement a fair-use policy.
The final negative side of BYOD is of what happens when an employee leaves your company? If they’ve been using their own device it can be a chore to get the data back, let alone establish who owns the data in the first place.
So What Can I do?
If you take a step back and observe, you’ll notice that smartphones are becoming more and more mainstream, and while in the short term you could say no to personal devices at work, it won’t work in the long term. It would be beneficial if you developed a BYOD plan that clearly states your expectations, and has a usage policy regarding network and data use. You don’t have to implement it right away, but it’ll help to have the plan ready, for when you do decide to allow employees to use their own devices. You could also set up a trial with some employees, observe how they get on with the devices and reevaluate your position after the trial period.
You should also establish a set point of security measures that are not optional. This is particularly important for companies that operate under set data security mandates, e.g., mandates regulating data storage in relation to point of sale and credit systems. Methods of increasing security include software that must be installed, and basic security measures such as a locked screen, or regular data backup.
It is also important to establish a process for when an employee leaves your company. Set up a policy regarding who owns what data and the steps to be taken at the end of employment. If your employee uses a device with a removable memory card, you could set up a partition – mini non-physical hard-drive within the larger physical hard-drive – on the card where data from the business is to be stored, allowing for easy access and retrieval.
Should your company go BYOD, or abstain? Be aware that this is a major trend and in the near future employees will start to push to use their own devices at work, if they haven’t already. If you’d like help setting up a BYOD plan or more information concerning security measures, please contact us.
Published on 10th April 2012 by Jeanne DeWitt.