We know that businesses are increasingly taking advantage of mobile devices to help employees work remotely and to stay connected with colleagues, customers and suppliers. The advantage of this approach is that traditional time and geographic restrictions (9-5, from the office) need no longer apply.
With employees now increasingly using devices out of the office as much as inside it, one option is to provide staff with company smartphones, tablets and laptops to enable them to work effectively wherever they might be. There is, however, another option – allowing employees to use their own devices for work-related purposes.
Let’s have a look at the BYOD phenomenon, and examine whether it might be worth considering for your business.
BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, simply refers to the practice of a business allowing its employees to use their own smartphones, tablets and personal computers for work purposes.
We live in an era where the personal devices many people own are technologically superior to anything they are likely to be provided with at work. Modern smartphones, tablets and advanced laptop PCs are all well within most people’s reach, and the necessity for employees to be provided with such devices has clearly lessened with time.
So why not just allow all employees to use their own devices for work, should they wish to?
Well, as ever, the situation is rather less clear cut than this question might suggest.
Let’s have a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of BYOD.
BYOD is cheaper
Without BYOD, businesses must continually invest in obtaining and maintaining hardware. Not only that, but various software licenses must be paid for and renewed. Compare this to a scenario where employees bring their own devices – these outlays might be reduced or, perhaps even, eliminated.
BYOD is more flexible
Allowing employees to access their work through personal devices can free them from a traditional corporate structure. Whether it is working from home instead of the office, or checking work emails from the beach, BYOD is advantageous to employees in terms of flexibility.
BYOD is preferable for employees
Employees might just be more comfortable working with their own devices. Very often, the devices we personally own are preferable to those provided by our employers, and when we feel comfortable we tend to be more productive and happy in our work.
Another facet is that BYOD eliminates device duplication. Imagine the frustration for one moment that a remote worker might feel in continually having to carry around two mobile phones, versus the contentment of being able to access everything on their preferred personal device.
Data integrity and privacy is a huge concern for businesses, especially in the modern connected age. Security policies and procedures might be easier to implement and control on company owned and managed devices. When personal devices are used, a whole range of additional potential dangers are added. For example, how is data on personal devices stored and encrypted? Is it being backed up to insecure public cloud services? Password protection on lost or stolen devices might not be up to exacting company standards. And what about potential virus and malware infections and their effects?
Variety of devices
The devices that businesses tend to provide employees with usually sit within a narrow range of models and specifications. The advantages of this are twofold. Firstly, a lack of variety makes device management and maintenance simpler for the business. Secondly, the business can be certain that the device will perform adequately the task(s) for which it is intended.
At Zen we offer Business Mobile which gives you complete control over the mobile devices used by your employees for work.
Compare this to a situation in which employees are using a wide variety of devices, some perhaps with inadequate hardware or outdated operating systems.
Lack of control
A business can have total control over, for example, the software installed on its own devices. In a BYOD scenario such control is less likely. Inadequate anti-virus software, out-of-date operating systems and web browsers, and conflicting software are just some of the potential problems that arise from a lack of control.
The fact is that, when thinking about BYOD, people often overlook the potential drawbacks when deciding whether or not it is a good idea.
That is not to say, though, that these problems are insurmountable.
For example, when it comes to data security it is possible for sensitive data to be stored entirely off the personal device. Through virtual private networks (VPNs), employees can have access to secure remote repositories for the storage of data. Even in the event of a device being lost or stolen the data can remain entirely secure (as long as the password, for example, is not compromised).
Mobile Device Management policies can also be implemented by the business to shore up otherwise flaky security. Mobile device security solutions, such as F-Secure, allow you to protect your devices with advanced firewall security, protection over VPN connectivity and protection against malware. Check out the F-Secure pages on our website for more information.
The point is that, as long as the business is fully aware of the potential drawbacks, steps can be taken in advance to minimise their impact.
Only you can truly answer that question.
The key is to fully consider both the benefits and the drawbacks, and this will involve some research. We have only really touched on the issue here but if you are considering the possible implementation of BYOD you may want to read the government-provided ‘BYOD Guidance: Executive Summary’, available here, for further information. While the report was written some time ago, the principles still largely apply.
It is also really important to develop a policy for BYOD use within your business. Issues including what software workers should use, what anti-virus software should be installed, acceptable use, what devices are supported and how support is provided (plus many others) should be considered and formalised before a BYOD scheme is introduced.
Carrying out sufficient research, and applying applicable and robust policies, before implementing a BYOD policy can help to protect your business against many of the potential pitfalls.
There are clearly advantages and disadvantages to BYOD, and only after carefully considering these will your business truly be in a position to make a decision.