Should Your IT Department Embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Era?

One of the fastest growing trends in technology is that of bringing your own devices to work. These devices could be phones, laptops, or even complete home offices that you use to telecommute to work. In many ways, it’s a trend that makes CFOs cheer, IT managers cringe, and employees feel more comfortable doing what they do.

Accessing company information through personal devices would be unheard of 10 years ago, especially among employees outside of upper management. Today, it’s a trend that more and more companies are beginning to accept and even embrace. After all, can you really keep your employees from bringing their own devices to the office when these devices can fit in their pocket?

In this article, we’ll review some of the pros and cons of this trend in hopes of discovering whether or not IT departments should embrace the idea of employees using personal devices for work.

Costs

There’s no question that devices purchased outside of the company cut costs. Hardware, software, and even support for these devices is mostly handled outside of the business. Many companies even have processes set up that help employees buy their own devices for business use by subsidizing the cost. After all, isn’t it cheaper to pay for 50% of something than 100%?

The only impact on the company would be through setting these systems up to interact with local hardware such as printers, scanners, and perhaps communicating with the rest of the network. Your It department may also go through a vetting process to make sure these outside devices don’t pose an immediate risk to the network. In some cases, a virtual network connection has to be established that gives employees access to the data they need to work without actually downloading that data to their machine. This is where products like GoToMyPC come in handy.

Without a BYOD policy in place, many companies are forced to rely on older technologies to get the same job done. If employees are willing to take a subsidized deal (or pay for the devices themselves outright) then the company can have the advantage of that employee having the latest technology at their disposal. Furthermore, that individual will be more apt to take care of their own equipment as opposed to one owned by the company.

Security

This is the part of the BYOD trend that has more IT professionals cringing than celebrating. A device that is not in the full control of the company is inherently less secure. The employee might be bringing a virus or some other malicious code into the business. The business might be at risk of legal action should the employee use the company’s better bandwidth for downloading pirated material. The employee may even access this sensitive information from an unsecured access point.

In any case, the company will almost always be more secure if it handles every aspect of data retention and access. The downside is that this same security can still be compromised, even when an employee uses company-funded systems. The chances are significantly lessened, however.

On the other side of these security measures is the employee. Some companies allow you to bring your own devices only if IT is allowed to install software to make it more secure. This means giving up some of your freedoms over your personal device. I don’t know of many employees that are willing to do that.

Having non-company machines at your business may also hinder your ability as a company to gain certifications that help you find bigger clients. If you work with money in any way, a loose device code could impact your business’ FACTA standing.

Morale

You work better when you’re working within a system you have some level of control over. I’ve worked for several companies in the past that forced us to use outdated systems that took forever to do anything. A computer that lags during a customer service call, for example, can cause frustration for both the employee and the customer as the waiting game can be quite a challenge.

The basic problem with restricting BYOD is that it’s difficult to enforce. Your employees will do everything they can to keep their beloved gadgets with them. Sometimes, it’s easier to adapt your business to what your employees are already doing than to ding morale by imposing restrictions on them. Resentment is far less motivating than working for a company that you truly enjoy working for.

If you enabled them to receive work email on their iPhone, for example, that might make them more productive at more times. You could alert them to any changes or expectations that might impact their early morning while they’re at home through email.

Defining the Modern Employee

It could be argued that traditional employment is quickly becoming a thing of the past. More and more companies are hiring contractors that work from home. This saves the company unemployment insurance, taxes, and overhead involved with providing immediate facilities for employees. By allowing these contractors to use their own equipment to get their work done, you’re also saving your company from having to purchase pretty much anything outside of software and/or server administrative costs.

I’m sitting at my HP desktop computer right now writing this article. As I’m doing so, work-related email is coming in on my MacBook Pro. Towards the end of the day, I use Adobe Premiere to edit video and upload it to YouTube using my own Internet connection. All of this equipment is provided by myself. In exchange for providing my own equipment, I get to enjoy some of the perks of being a contractor including being able to make my own schedule and take on odd jobs outside of the realm of the company.

On the company’s side of the equation, the business saves a boatload on overhead. This enables it to hire more folks, create more content, and otherwise build where other companies might be able to only maintain.

The BYOD era isn’t going anywhere. With full-fledged desktop computers finding their way into employees’ backpacks and pockets, the shift from corporate control to shared responsibilities is inevitable. The question remaining is, will your IT department adapt?

Woman Showing A Cell Phone by Petr Kratochvil

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • http://twitter.com/Andrew_France Andrew France

    Being a school our students and staff have been bringing their devices for a while now, and at times it seems impossible to support this. In the last year however it has sky-rocketted, and there is simply no avoiding it. It is us who must adapt.

    However i have seen solutions like RDS Remote Apps running in a HTML 5 supported browser that will lessen the hit, in this way we can provide the tools the users need on any device, pretty cool.

    But there is also the learning curve… Today we had to connect the latest Kindle touch to our WiFi. last week I think it was a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a couple of BBs. Name any device and a student has probably walked through the door with one. It certainly takes you out of your Windows comfort zone!

  • Felipe Baez

    I completely agree with the article and with Andrew France’s comment. It’s time to adapt to evolve. I am right in the middle of this transition, working for a big corporation, cannot yet use fully my own devices but the company is walking towards that path, and I work from home at least half of the week, the company pays for my internet (30/30Mbps). A happy employee is a good employee.

  • http://twitter.com/AbdulRButt Abdul R Butt

    Job oriented people dream about a work place that pay for their cell phone and personal internet, dont remember where I read but a research was done and they found one of the the most asked questions from interviewee to interviewer was the freedom to use social media and will the company pay for their cell phone and personal internet connection or not. I totally agree with the article any company that will treat their employees as their first clients will grow fast.

  • http://twitter.com/AbdulRButt Abdul R Butt

    Job oriented people dream about a work place that pay for their cell phone and personal internet, dont remember where I read but a research was done and they found one of the the most asked questions from interviewee to interviewer was the freedom to use social media and will the company pay for their cell phone and personal internet connection or not. I totally agree with the article any company that will treat their employees as their first clients will grow fast.

    • http://www.freenclearstuff.com/ Amber Taylor

      Microsoft does this :) At least they did when my husband worked for them.

  • http://www.freenclearstuff.com/ Amber Taylor

    My husband is a security guru. He cringes and cheers at the same time. He recognizes the security nightmare – not to mention having to be able to support different devices and their issue on the network – but does enjoy bringing his own.

  • Spencer Parkinson

    As you point out, there certainly is a case for BYOD. You mention the administration and security concerns surrounding the trend and these are very valid as well. I will say, however, as a Symantec employee focused on mobile security and management, the concerns surrounding BYOD are a lot like those involved with driving a car. Are there potential hazards involved with both? Yes. But can those hazards be avoided? Of course! In both cases, preparing for the various hazards by being properly equipped with appropriate protections and tools is necessary. We recently acquired Nukona, which makes mobile application management, or MAM, technology. This is a great BYOD ‘accident avoidance’ solution. MAM, in contrast to MDM, enables enterprises to avoid device-level management of BYOD devices and instead implement application-level management. It does this by “wrapping” corporate apps and the data tied to them in their own security and management layers. This gives enterprises complete control of their apps and data while leaving the rest of the personally-owned devices they are on and also users’ experiences with those devices untouched.

    Spencer Parkinson
    Symantec

  • Christopher Franko

    cool story bro

  • cscash241

    I like the idea of giving the employees a Laptop with an encrypted hard drive and having an automatic termination on site policy for anyone who looses a laptop.

  • tommyalmond

    I read an article about a woman contacting her companies IT technician telling him she’d lost her laptop and asked if he could help her find it. She’d put a LOT of sensitive data on the laptop so he had to wipe it remotely.

    She then informed him it wasn’t her work laptop she had lost, it was her personal one.

    Just thought I’d share this headache of a story with y’all haha.

  • http://twitter.com/timourrashed Timour Rashed

    I agree that having an encrypted hard drive is a large boost of security and protects sensitive data from leaking, however, in my experience the biggest side-effect of such a hard drive is that the everything you do on the laptop/PC will be slowed to a crawl due to the constant unencrypting-processing-reencypting that cycle.

  • http://twitter.com/djmoore711 D. J.

    I think for most companies and IT Managers, it’s mostly based on security and support. Who will support that person’s person device? If it is on the network: how can we secure it?

    Where I work now, we can bring personal smartphones and tablets, but we can’t plug them into the work computer. All USB ports are taped over with warning labels. For us, it’s all about security. We work closely with military networks, also. They have the same policies; we just copied theirs, basically!

    Oh, we also have no WiFi networks available, even on our commercial network.