“The only thing that is constant is change."
The printing press, the steam engine, the light bulb, the personal computer: all of these have revolutionized the world. And each new invention carried with it something all captains of industry learned to crave: opportunity. Opportunity takes a set of circumstances and views them in the light of possibility. But it also requires awareness of potential problems, and the imagination to provide solutions - maybe even before the problems arise.
So it is with modern technology. When the world first met the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, things changed. Everything changed, including the way we do business. One of the most significant iterations of this change in recent times is now being referred to as BYOD, or “bring your own device.”
Like it or not, employees, management personnel, and executives alike are using their personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones on the job. A 2012 study by Forrester Research even predicted that by 2015, BYOD would become standard policy and a requirement for new hires. While that remains to be seen, there’s no doubt that BYOD is here, and it’s here to stay.
Pro-BYOD: Contentment, Convenience, and Cost Savings
When employers allow company personnel to work from a device of their own choosing, employees tend to be happier and more productive. Their technology is a tool with which they’re already familiar, so it cuts down training time and makes work more enjoyable.
BYOD affords unmatched mobility for company personnel. Employees are able to work remotely, whether from home or on location. This could allow your company to continue being productive after business hours, transmit data while in the field in near real time, or even break into new markets.
There is also significant cost savings associated with BYOD. Businesses would no longer have to invest in work station phone systems, computers, and software, since individuals would pay out-of-pocket for their own hardware and applications.
Additionally, BYOD users oversee updates and repairs to their technology on their own, so there are fewer maintenance and support calls to your I.T. department. Also, it tends to be easier for an employee to update their individual devices and apps than it is to do a system-wide upgrade, so hardware and software tend to be cutting edge. This frees up company funds to sink into production, marketing, or growth while taking advantage of the most current technology on the market.
BYOD Disadvantages: Security, Monitoring, Training Costs
BYOD offers many advantages, but there are a few caveats as well.
Security is of the highest concern when it comes to BYOD. A 2011 study by ISACA showed that at least 58% of security professionals consider BYOD the greatest threat to their company’s data. This is extremely important for those in industries like healthcare and finance, where data is subject to compliance with state and federal law. In some cases, security breaches can result in fines and even incarceration.
A user’s personal technology device will travel home and around the community with them, exposing the company to more than one potential hazard. Once the device leaves the corporate network, it can operate outside network policies, and may be vulnerable to apps and malware that they bring back to the office. Tolar recommends using separate networks for mobile devices.
Tolar is very insistent on isolating networks and infrastructure so that we can provide people with access. People may bring their devices into our organization, but we want to isolate mobile or foreign devices from our desktops and our servers, so that systems are not affected maliciously.
Also, sensitive data and files may accessible from the apparatus. The I.T. department can put measures in place to ensure they are able to lock the device remotely should it become lost or stolen; they may even be able to wipe its memory. However, users should be made aware that this would erase their personal data as well.
Businesses that allow personnel to use their own technology should also consider what to do if the employee resigns or is terminated. The device would leave with the individual. The company will need to ascertain the user no longer has access to company files and intellectual property.
Businesses that implement BYOD risk their employees using their technology devices for personal purposes. Companies must also consider the privacy of their user’s personal data. To what degree will their activity be monitored on their device? Employees may have reservations when it comes to this topic, and if it’s not handled appropriately, your staff can become frustrated.
The cost savings implicit in BYOD can sometimes be slightly offset by the extra expense in training your I.T. department. Your I.T. professionals will need at least a passing familiarity with a wide variety of devices in order to provide support to any allowable devices.
Wise businessmen and women know how to utilize the advantages this trend affords while being proactive in managing the downfalls. It’s essential to carefully weigh these benefits and risks, because whether you lean toward or away from BYOD, the river of business is changing again, and we must learn to navigate the flow without getting swept away.