1984. No, not the book by George Orwell. It’s also year that the first PDA was released. Yes, believe it or not, it has been almost 20 years. At first, these handy devices were seen as a luxury item, that only high level executives, professional business people and sales people who worked on the road needed.
Since then, the ability to “work on the go” has grown by leaps and bounds. Mobile devices have brought on tremendous improvements in workplace efficiency and they are everywhere. But the question business owners need to ask themselves is this, is it better for your employees to use Yours or Theirs?
To BYOD or not to BYOD?
It seems that everywhere you look today there are articles discussing the pros and cons of BYOD (Bring Your Own
Drinks Device). IT consumerization, the blending of personal and business use of technology devices and applications, is being driven by the younger and more “mobile” workforce who has literally grown up on the internet.
Today’s employees often own the latest and greatest technology, and unless you are doing a security pat down at the door, it is likely that they are bringing it to work with them.
Forrester Research estimates that by 2016, 350 million workers will use smartphones — 200 million of whom will take their own devices to the workplace.
According to Enterasys (February 2012):
- 74% of companies allow some sort of BYOD usage
- Less than 10% of organizations are “fully aware” of the devices accessing their network
- 81% of Employees use at least one mobile device for business use
A study by Cisco (May 2012), had similar findings:
- 95% of organizations surveyed reported that they allow employees to use their own devices at work in some capacity
- The average number of connected devices per employee is predicted to reach 3.3 by 2014, up from 2.8 in 2012.
- Over 76% of IT managers believe that BYOD is a good idea, despite the challenges that come with it
On the surface, BYOD appears like a complete win-win scenario for small and mid-sized businesses. All the studies done so far show that most employees would rather use their own devices – and every business owner knows happy employees are more productive, right? And just think about how much money you will save by eliminating mobile devices from your budget!
But is it really that simple?
Needless to say, if you decide to allow employees to use personal devices to connect directly to your company network, you are going to need to deal with security issues. According to Osterman Research, who surveyed over 100 IT security providers who work with small and mid-sized businesses:
- An average of 4.3% of endpoints are infected each month (52.1% annually)
- There was a 35% increase in Web violations between of 2007 to 2012
- During the same period there was a 12% increase in email violations (malware, phishing and related attacks).
Another obvious issue you will need to address is how to deal with turning over company documents and information upon termination of employment.
But about some of the less obvious “challenges” that you will need to face if you decide to allow BYOD in your workplace?
As crazy as it may seem, an overwhelming number of people do NOT protect access to their mobile devices. One study found that 70% of people don’t use a password. If you are going to allow BYOD for work related activities, especially if employees are storing sensitive information, it is imperative that you make it mandatory to have mobile devices password-protected.
If your employee deals with outside clients or vendors using his personal phone, you need to address what phone number will be used right from the start. The easiest way is to assign an alias phone number (such as call forwarding through VOIP) that is “owned” by the company. This way, when employee leaves the company, the number stays with you.
Consistency and Compatibility
If your employees are using their devices to share and view documents, you need to know that are many versions of office productivity software and things don’t always look the same on different devices. For example, a Word document created on a desktop or laptop may be formatted perfectly, but open the same document on a mobile device or tablet and it may look like gibberish.
Lost or Damaged Devices
When employees use company devices, you are in control of how data is stored and backed up. If a device is lost or damaged, you can retrieve data and remotely wipe the device clean. You also be able to quickly get a new device back into your employee’s hands so he can go “back to work.”
But when employees use their own device, there will be a combination of both personal and professional data. You will need to have a plan for how employees keep the data separate so that only business data is remotely wiped from a lost device. Also, since you cannot force an employee to purchase a new device, you must have a plan in advance for making sure that all important company data is properly stored and backed up.
These are just a few of the things that you will need to consider before you jump on the BYOD bandwagon. Yes, there are many positives, but you will definitely want to have a BYOD Policy in place so that you can hopefully prevent, or at least quickly manage, the negatives.