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How Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Affects the Workplace

In recent years, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), also called Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), has become a growing trend and common practice with businesses around the world. BYOD is a policy that allows employees to use their own mobile devices including smartphones, personal computers, tablets and laptops to work and use them to access the data within their companies.
With the increasing need for a mobile workplace, studies have shown that more than two-thirds of North American and European information workers (employees who use a computer for more than one hour a day at work) prefer to use their own personal devices. Rather than using a device that the company chooses for them, which they may not be comfortable with or use efficiently, employees are also willing to pay for a portion of the software and data plans that go along with the ability to use their own device.

Employees are willing to make the cost trade off to use their own devices at work because they are already familiar with their personal device and have become an expert at using it. This makes them more productive and efficient employees. Most people consider their devices to be one of the most important objects they own.

The trend in mobile working is being driven by simple, accessible and pervasive technology that frees people up to work anytime, anywhere. According to Gartner Inc, the “consumerization of IT” will be the most significant trend affecting IT for the next ten years. It also includes mobile device management, application management, data protection, IT security and much more.

Businesses can take advantage of BYOD with a strategy to reduce security risks, financial exposure and management chaos. This strategy will help IT balance the risk and the benefits of a BYOD policy with a strong program to help it:

Maintain control by managing company information and maintaining liabilities on personal devices.

Share corporate data safely with secure access, backup and file sharing

Protect data wherever it is with context-aware security

As popular new consumer technology enters the workplace, it challenges IT with new security risks, financial exposure and operational complexity. With these challenges, the question is, how will IT maintain visibility and control of the ever evolving collection of mobile devices and the consumer apps that propagate with BYOD?

To minimize the operation costs of BYOD, businesses need solutions with broad platform support that consolidate management and integrate with their existing security. Mobile device management, mobile application management, mobile security and data security help ensure visibility and control of BYOD and IT collaboration.

Mobile malware relies heavily on user interaction to initiate. This means a bad app can spread to millions of smartphone users instantly when shared in social networking sites. Educating device users about prevention is the first step toward a secure BYOD plan. Here is one of the areas that needs to be addressed, since social media is an important part of people’s lives. You want to make sure that your company’s sensitive information will be protected when your employees visit these sites on their own devices.

Companies need a unified security management solution that gives IT control over mobile devices and applications. The safeguards that are essential for the protection of a company’s sensitive data can be costly, that is why IT organizations are experimenting with ways to reduce the operational costs of supporting BYOD. This requires mobile security that protects employee-liable devices as well as control over which devices can access corporate resources.

IT organizations are developing mobile device management policies for the provisioning and deprovisioning of employee owned devices. This will help protect company and personal data, applications and access. In addition, adding password enforcement and encryption technology is as essential as a remote lock and wipe capability to protect data when employees lose their mobile devices.

The cloud is one of the driving forces behind BYOD, with mobile devices accessing data from private clouds, social networking, or other cloud services and applications. Mobile device management (MDM), cloud-based security, device locator services, remote wipes for lost or stolen devices and more should all be a part of a solid BYOD plan.

Another key issue, often overlooked, in regards to BYOD that companies must consider and add to their BYOD policies is the phone number problem. The problem becomes apparent when employees in sales and other customer contact roles leave the company and take their phone number with them. Customers calling the number they were given might wind up calling competitors, which can lead to loss of business for companies that promote BYOD.

While BYOD is occurring in companies and governments of all sizes, it is most prevalent in midsize and large businesses ($500 million to $5 billion in revenue, with 2,500 to 5,000 employees). BYOD also allows smaller companies to go mobile without an unmanageable device and service investment. Adoption varies widely across the world. Companies in the United States are twice as likely to allow BYOD as those in Europe, where BYOD has the lowest adoption of all the regions. In contrast, employees in India, China and Brazil are most likely to be using a personal device, typically a standard mobile phone, at work.

The future of business is moving more toward a mobile workforce and there are advantages, as well as disadvantages to BYOD.

David Willis, vice president and analyst at Gartner Inc, information technology research and advisory company has this to say,

“We’re finally reaching the point where IT officially recognizes what has always been going on: People use their business device for nonwork purposes,” said Mr. Willis. “They often use a personal device in business. Once you realize that, you’ll understand you need to protect data in another way besides locking down the full device. It is essential that IT specify which platforms will be supported and how; what service levels a user should expect; what the user’s own responsibilities and risks are; who qualifies; and that IT provides guidelines for employees purchasing a personal device for use at work, such as minimum requirements for operating systems.”

Image cc Flickr via Phil Roeder