The concept of BYOD, otherwise known as “Bring Your Own Device” is becoming an increasingly popular IT trend for companies of all sizes. It is the movement toward employees bringing their own laptops, smartphones and tablets to their workplace and using those devices to access company information and applications. It is most prominent in high-growth markets and is quickly becoming the IT norm in today’s workplace worldwide.
Some companies – including yours – may already support a BYOD environment without even considering it. The most common scenario of this plays out when employees access company email through personal mobile devices or laptops or when employees work from home and access shared company files from a personal computer. The flexibility BYOD creates allows employees to be productive outside their scheduled work hours, but also poses some security threats that you should consider.
Why Companies are Moving Toward BYOD
BYOD originated with the growth of personal laptops, tablets and smartphones. Owning more than one personal device is becoming extremely common and is considered trendy – especially if you’re an early adapter in the technology market. This culture has created an employee base that has preferences when it comes to the types of devices used both personally and professionally. This culture shift mixed with the current era of constant communication served as the launch pad for the BYOD trend we see today. It is growing increasingly popular since it gives employees the flexibility to communicate with clients and coworkers in real-time from any location.
Advantages of BYOD
Studies have been executed to determine employee sentiment toward companies that transition into a BYOD environment. Surprisingly, many employees actually prefer to use their personal devices in the workplace. Desktop workstations consisting of dated computers are quickly being replaced with personal laptops that are on the forefront of technology. Hardware updates are being made more frequently as opposed to company IT updates that were often behind schedule. Instead of carrying two phones to take care of personal and work matters, employees are using one phone – which they personally select, like the best and know how to use more productively. All of these translate into improvements in workplace satisfaction and levels of productivity. It was even determined that a BYOD structure has benefits when recruiting new employees, as a candidate is 50 percent more likely to apply for a position that allows them to use their own devices at work.
One major proponent for BYOD is the cost savings for the company. While the cost is passed to the employee, we find that many employees are not opposed to this and have accepted it openly because they are no longer restricted to the technology issued by their IT department. This shift in mentality is similar to the move that many sales organizations made years ago when they eliminated fleets of company cars. Instead, they required employees to use their own cars for deliveries and sales calls. Many employees not only accepted this, but preferred the flexibility it offered.
Successful Implementation of BYOD
Moving toward a BYOD structure offers many benefits to both the employer and employee, however, is does also open up the door to threats that you may or may not have yet considered. From data integrity to transfer of data after employee termination, embracing BYOD translates into loss of control over company hardware and how it is used.
Companies can take steps to ensure they’re protected when migrating to a BYOD environment. Below are a few to keep in mind:
- Understand the pros and cons: Educate your team about the risks and benefits involved in BYOD implementation – especially as it relates to integrating corporate and personal data.
- Create and enforce a BYOD policy: Ensure employees understand and agree to the guidelines you create for your company’s BYOD environment. It is important to define which company information needs to be protected and which employees are allowed to access this information. After outlining a policy, be sure to educate your employees and select a representative from your company to be responsible for monitoring your policy.
- Determine a payment structure: Some companies require employees to cover 100 percent of the BYOD costs, while others offer a monthly credit limit. Evaluate the amount you currently invest in your devices and determine a payment structure that fits your business needs.
- Put controls in place in case a device is lost or stolen: Mobile device management (MDM) offers companies the ability to erase sensitive data when devices are lost or stolen. Companies such as SOPHOS offer solutions that give you control to reactivate the sensitive data once the device is recovered, giving you added flexibility.
- Enforce strong passcodes on all devices: Ensure employees set difficult passwords and automatic locks on devices to make it difficult for someone to break in and access unauthorized information.
- Periodically review your policy: Consider a BYOD refresher course to ensure your policy is adaptable. Maintain a strategic policy that reflects what you know today and what you project for the future, keeping in mind it will grow as new technologies become available.
- Map out a plan around employee termination: Risks arise when it is unclear who owns the data after an employee is terminated. Be sure to clearly define data ownership with all employees and enforce compliance mandates that pose requirements related to information security and ownership of specific information. Also include policy information that governs how data will be retrieved from personal devices once employment has been terminated.
BYOD is a trend that will become more prominent in the years to come. If your company has yet to get involved, now is a perfect opportunity to begin evaluating it. A successful BYOD implementation is strategic and gives employees flexibility to use their own devices without compromising your company’s privacy and security.