What is BYOD?
What is Bring Your Own Devices? Presently, mobile communications have developed beyond a mere option and become a necessity for any competitive organization that needs to keep their employees connected and productive. Luckily for said organizations, today’s advancements in mobile technology enable businesses to expand the benefits of media collaboration to any device, anywhere. In other words, people don’t have to come in the office to work anymore—a fact that has now become common knowledge to the general public due to the global pandemic that’s forced everyone to work from home.
This trend of employees using personal devices to connect to their organizational networks and access work-related systems is referred to as BYOD, or ‘Bring Your Own Device,’ and these personal devices could include smartphones, personal computers, tablets, or USB drives.
Advantages of BYOD
There are several positive features that come with utilizing BYOD, the primary of these arguably being cost savings. When employees use their personal devices to work, your company won’t have to budget for new hardware, nor worry about device repair and maintenance charges, and software licensing can be reduced. It can also decrease expenses in other areas, such as IT support, employee training, and buying data plans. Instead, all the money being saved can go toward upgrading current technologies within the workplace.
Another plus to having a BYOD policy is employee satisfaction. Studies have shown a boost in employee productivity over a 40-hour workweek. This is because when there is a consistent UI (short for user interface, which represents the series of screens, pages, and visual elements that enable someone to connect with an electronic or service—in this case, workers being able to consistently connect with their workplace) regardless of location, there’s evidence of an increase in employee productivity.
Thanks to such flexible work arrangements, there have been indications of an increase in employee job satisfaction and retention. To be put simply, the more an employee feels in control of their work environment, the more satisfied and engaged they’ll be, leading to greater productivity.
Which leads us to our third BYOD advantage: productivity. With BYOD, employees can carry out their everyday, mundane tasks, including checking their email and calendars, by simply and conveniently using their own smartphones. With a device they’re already well accustomed to using, employees can work more quickly and efficiently. What’s more, if there’s ever a time of crisis or a natural catastrophe occurs (such as, say, a global pandemic), workers can easily access the company network from their homes, ensuring business continuity. There’s even shown to be a slight increase in hours employees clock by being able to work away from the office.
Disadvantages of BYOD
While BYOD solutions can potentially provide efficiencies in the way employees work, they also bring vulnerabilities in the network. If a BYOD policy isn’t comprehensively defined and enforced within a workplace, such a policy can quickly backfire and jeopardize a company’s security. Businesses must consider the full implications and risks that come with allowing their data to be accessed on personal devices they could have little to no control over.
When a policy that permits employees to use personal devices to work is implemented within an organization, it should come as no surprise that one of the largest risks would be security. The greater the number of employees’ personal devices, the broader the attack surface. Employees could unknowingly expose their devices to malware, leaving company data vulnerable to data breaches, or their devices could become lost or get stolen. Sensitive company data (for instance, financial records and trade secrets) can fall into the wrong hands if a personal device is compromised. To best guard against data loss or leakage, devices will need passcodes or fingerprint unlocking, and anti-virus and anti-malware software installed.
A second issue that could come with a BYOD policy is a rise in difficulty and complexity in IT support. With employees on a multitude of devices, operating systems, and software versions, it becomes strenuous to resolve tech support and maintenance tasks. In other words, there’s no consistency or uniformity, making it challenging to provide effective and efficient support options (such as tutorials and standard operating procedures) because the variety of issues that could arise will be device specific. What’s more, IT support staff will likely have knowledge gaps when troubleshooting for non-Microsoft systems, which would lead to an increase in training for the staff. All of this comes with additional costs, time, and management requirements.
Each of the negative aspects that have just been reviewed, security threats and increased strain on IT support, play a role our final disadvantage that could come with having a BYOD policy: management challenges. An increase in security risks would mean a demand in additional security measures that must be implemented across all devices. This would include smartphones and tablets that employees use for business purposes, a safety precaution that would be time-consuming and laborious.
Furthermore, a rise in IT support difficulty would result in additional responsibilities and complications that must be dealt with as well. Not only is there a necessity to provide support to personal devices, but those devices operate on different systems—iOS, Microsoft, Linus—which is both daunting and exhausting for IT staff.
Having a Bring Your Own Devices policy comes with both advantages and disadvantages, ranging from cost savings and boosts in productivity, to security risks and management challenges. Due to the global pandemic that’s forced nearly everyone to work from home, it’s become a priority within more and more organizations to develop a BYOD policy that best protects the business from any vulnerabilities that may arise from the usage of personal devices to work.
In order to develop a proper BYOD policy, IT departments must address if and how they’ll secure personal devices and determine access levels. Important elements that should be addressed in BYOD policies include the types of approved devices, security and data ownership policies, and the levels of IT support granted to personal devices (if any). Beyond determining the level of support they’ll apply to personal devices, IT leaders must also ensure a balance between organizational security and employees’ privacy. It’s important that a defined BYOD security policy informs and educates employees on how to utilize BYOD without compromising organizational data or networks.