"Bring your own device" policies have become hot topics of discussion as our devices continue to take over our lives. But is BYOD too risky?
Along with the influx of mobile devices among consumers has come the need to develop new rules, requirements, and regulations with regard to how technology is handled in the workplace. It’s up to each business to set their own rules, and many have opted to draw up explicit “bring your own device” to work, or BYOD, policies.
What are the positives and negatives to allowing your employees to use their own devices for work-related tasks and communication? Here are the different aspects you need to think of when exploring the option of BYOD policies.
The nature of BYOD policies
Not all BYOD policies are alike. Each is intended to allow your employees to bring their own personal mobile devices into the workplace, but the amount of access one may have to those devices will vary significantly.
According to IBM, one of the leading players in the movement toward BYOD, there are generally four different options employers choose from:
- Unlimited access to personal devices
- Access only to non-sensitive data and systems’
- Access with IT control over apps, data, and personal devices
- Access but no local storage of data on any personal devices
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Advantages of BYOD policies
It’s a bit early to make any definitive claims about BYOD policies, particularly since the dynamics of any two businesses are rarely the same, but here are the most common benefits:
- Lower IT costs. The biggest benefit for businesses is the cost savings. A BYOD policy empowers company owners to reduce the number of devices they have to purchase, sometimes dramatically, and shifts the majority of the cost to the user. You should recognize that very little savings will be noticeable in the first year or two of implementation, however. It’s only after all the issues have been addressed that substantial savings may occur. There will be a major investment in employee education on the front end.
- Increased satisfaction. Mobile devices are becoming extensions of who we are, which is why allowing employees to bring their devices into the workplace has been so readily accepted. Employees love being able to carry fewer devices and employ the ones with which they are most familiar. A BYOD policy satisfies both of these desires.
- More proficiency. It takes time to get comfortable with a new software, program, or device. By allowing employees to use the devices they already use on a daily basis, businesses may expect them to work faster and more accurately.
Drawbacks of BYOD policies
For every benefit, there’s a potential risk associated with a BYOD policy. Here are a few of the notable ones:
- Lack of control. The number-one disadvantage of a BYOD policy is that it limits corporate control. When dozens or even hundreds of different devices -- typically made by different manufacturers and running a variety of programs -- routinely pass in and out of a company’s doors, you’re much more susceptible to viruses and hacking. Businesses have to make sure all their phones, tablets, and computers are up to date with reliable security programs, on an ongoing basis, which can be a costly and time-consuming effort when you have to work with employees’ personal devices. Many web site hosts offer sophisticated security services, but according to Paul Mosley, Marketing Manager at Bluehost, “It’s up to individual companies to ensure they do what’s necessary to mitigate the threats and secure vulnerable points of entry.”
- Personal cost. While the cost reduction from a corporate point of view is great, will all your employees be willing to invest their own money in mobile devices? Some will already own them, but others won’t. Many employees have grown to expect employers to pay for certain technologies and may not appreciate having to handle that aspect on their own.
- Compatibility issues. Finally, compatibility issues can be a major problem. With so many different devices and operating systems involved, it can be challenging for your firm to identify and purchase programs that work for everyone.
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Companies that use BYOD policies
Thousands of companies have already instigated a BYOD policy and it can be beneficial to hear their take on things. There are certainly some negatives and reports of poor experiences, but most companies report relative satisfaction with the BYOD approach.
Apple points to Ingram Micro as one of the biggest success stories. Their “robust program for supporting personally owned mobile devices has given employees freedom of choice, secure enterprise connectivity, and the power to be productive on their preferred devices.”
Can your organization find a way to capitalize on the BYOD shift, or are you afraid there may be too many risks?