BYOD, opportunities and challenges

Bring-Your-Own-Device or BYOD is no longer an anticipated trend. It has arrived to live among us and predicted to only increase in usage. What are the challenges and opportunities in handling this force, which has permeated the mobile office lifestyle?

The rise of BYOD was influenced chiefly by the growth of Enterprise Mobility and especially the smart devices. Picture this, The Economist in a recent article Planet of phones says that today about half the adult population in the world own smartphones and by 2020 that number will go up to 80%. A Gartner survey report says that by 2017, more than 38% of companies expect to stop providing workplace devices to staff by 2016.

This means that all these devices, whether a smartphone or a tablet, are fully functional offices rather than just email and messaging service centers as they started out to be. BYOD is being heralded as the biggest change to client computing since computers arrived in the workplace. Enterprise apps today make complex daily functions of companies possible for employees across the spectrum of industries and ranks.

We live in a dynamic business world, where work demands must be met as and when they arise. BYOD provides the employee with an opportunity to resolve the problem without the painful task of being physically present for a midnight crisis call. It also takes data sharing in companies to a whole new level. The employee is comfortable working on a preferred device and spared the hassle of coordinating work across various devices.

Shifting costs

The obvious financial advantage for companies would be in eliminating the investment for the new hardware and its many updates. The device and the upgrades required would usually be borne by the user/employee. This, however, does not mean a completely free ride for businesses.

Most companies would partially foot the bill of service costs and also invest in systems that ensure the efficiency and security of working on non-company owned enterprises. The amount earlier spent by companies to buy devices can be substantially used for providing and maintaining the BYOD infrastructure for a lot more employees.

There is a scenario now that has left IT departments to play catch up with the increasing number and variety of devices in companies. It requires IT support to understand the working of all brands of phones, tablets, and laptops and to seamlessly integrate them into the larger functioning of the company. Not to forget the load on the internal network, as there is likely to be more devices than people.

Security and Privacy

The red flag if any for BYOD has been concerns of security. Every device is a potentially vulnerable point, for various threats ranging from confidential data theft to virus attacks. For the companies and specifically IT heads to draw a line on what is acceptable and not on the device of an employee is hazy at best.

The multitude of security approaches, from password protection to wipeouts cannot come as an afterthought. IT teams should collaborate with users and business managers to proactively create policies, implement programs and anticipate future requirements for BYOD. Data protection rules and regulations for all possible scenarios whether it is an employee leaving a company or the loss of the device, must be in place as corporates embrace BYOD.

Mobile devices could easily leave a trail of information of the user, including location among other things. The extent of information that companies can access on a mobile device of an employee could be questionable. Assurances are necessary to the employee that need not worry about stalking or intrusion into private data. Tools and software solutions such as Mobile Data Management (MDM) and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) are coming in handy to manage the apps the employee is using and secure company data.

As Enterprise Mobility apps have become the norm of the day, BYOD is no longer a question of ‘if” but a clarification of ‘how’. Businesses need to assess their mobile workforce and choose an appropriate route to BYOD. The approach needs to graduate from the haphazard implementation of delivery systems across various platforms to a holistic one.

A clear concise policy must be defined which would lay down protocols on issues of security, privacy, and usage. This must be in balance with ensuring a robust network and the efficient roll-out of apps on devices, so people can simply do what BYOD was meant for – work.

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