Understanding the BYOD Trend

Ten or fifteen years ago, a company decided on its computing environment—its designated operating system, devices and software—and that’s what employees used. Period. Along came the BYOD trend. BYOD, which stands for "Bring Your Own (computing) Device to work,” has swept across America in the past five years. Employees have got so used to having technology in their personal lives that they don’t want to give it up while at work. We all prefer using the devices we each, as individuals, feel most comfortable with. Of course everyone would rather use the coolest new mobile devices rather than staid, company-issued laptops or desktop computers. As a business owner, you’re under pressure to allow employees to use their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops for work. A study by Cisco last year found that 95% of large companies surveyed allow employees to use their personally owned devices for work. The practice has now become pretty much ingrained in the workplace, and it does have its benefits: Improves Morale – It makes for happier employees.  Enhanced Productivity – Employees can be more productive while working outside the office.  Cost Savings – The costs associated with the personal device are just that: personal. Most workers willingly purchase their preferred laptop or mobile device, including their data plan, and simply want to use it for business purposes. But the BYOD trend also poses certain challenges for business owners: Control – One obvious thing is that it is harder to control your IT environment. With companies relying more on technology to conduct business, there’s simply more to manage to make sure everything works as seamlessly as possible. Top that off with employees using a variety of devices and operating systems, and complexity multiples. Personal vs. Work – When a user has a single device, there will likely be a level at which personal activities and work activities meet and overlap. The question becomes how to partition them. How do you keep personal email separate from work email in a way that employees don’t resent, and that protects both the company and the employee? Mobility – Your team may work from different locations—from home, for example—or they may simply do more work while out in the field or on business trips. They will be using mobile devices and that brings added challenges. Mobile security is one of them—and that can be as simple an issue as a tablet getting lost. One Symantec study found that when mobile devices where intentionally lost, in almost all cases the data was accessed, either for illicit purposes or simply to discover the owner. If a mobility-related incident resulted in losses, the average was almost $250,000. Security – Businesses in general face more IT security challenges than ever before. According to one study, companies with fewer than 250 employees were the focus of 31 percent of all cyber-attacks last year. And with so many different devices, and so many of them being mobile devices, security concerns are multiplying.  As a business owner, don’t turn a blind eye to the BYOD trend. If it hasn’t come up in your workspace, it likely will soon. Putting BYOD into practice is not as simple as just saying, "Go for it." Its implementation requires new policies and employee education, as well as staying aware of how using personal devices affects both your employees and your overall business.  Have you successfully implemented a BYOD policy in your business? Or do you prefer to keep all work-related practices on work-issued devices? Let us know in the comments.