Distilling the BYOD Movement
Technology that once anchored us to a fixed location in front of a desktop in an office or cubicle has now liberated us to work from almost anywhere. But while the hardware to work from anywhere is readily available, businesses often fail to establish a device management plan to handle the growing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement that is replacing the traditional company owned phone or laptop.
Company distributed device model
The traditional model of a company provided phone was fantastic when few people had personal cellphones. At that time, carrying a company Blackberry was a status symbol people were proud to carry.
However, as almost everyone now carries a personal cellphone, the idea of carrying a second phone isn’t appealing, especially if it isn’t the latest and greatest device on the market. Fortunately, this is one instance where many companies have quickly evolved allowing for the BYOD model to take over, even if sometimes this is just by default and not design.
Employees, not employers, have been the primary drivers of the BYOD movement. More and more, employees want to be accessible and be able to access work information from anywhere, anytime. The clear “quitting time” has dissolved, and people want to check their email or review some documents after dinner. To do so they need to be connected to their company’s network.
Company issued devices can give employees this connection and accessibility in a secure fashion, but employees no longer want devices selected for them. They want to work with something they are familiar with to avoid the frustration and unproductiveness that comes with adjusting to a different operating system or settings.
Most secure BYOD implementation will also make it easier for employees to work from their desktops at home, giving them more flexibility to work around their lives.
A common criticism of BYOD is that employers are shifting these costs unfairly onto workers, which is seldom, if ever, the case. Companies are not mandating that employees buy and use smartphones for work. This is a decision employees are making on their own. Where companies come into play is the management of access to the network and how security can be maintained while allowing this access by a variety of personal devices.
One of the commonly considered beliefs about BYOD is that it saves the company money, but this isn’t necessarily true. Hardware costs will obviously be lower, as fewer devices are being purchased by the company, but a proper BYOD management plan will include a more complex network security solution to monitor and maintain access to the network for the variety of devices that will be in use.
The primary motivation for adopting a BYOD model is the happiness and productivity of your employees. Cost savings may occur, but it is in increased productivity that should be the determining factor. Employees being able to get more done, whether responding to an urgent email while at lunch or in a meeting or working on a report while waiting for a flight at the airport, will be the major benefit of a BYOD plan, along with the employees being happier that they are being more productive in a more flexible environment.
You’ll also see fewer deadlines missed because of unforeseeable absences. If a blizzard hits, and people can’t make it to work for a couple days, projects can go stagnant unless people have access to that information from home and can coordinate with others.
Establishing a BYOD plan
While BYOD can be advantageous to most companies, it isn’t necessarily for every business. Just as with any business decision, you need t weigh the benefits and disadvantages, and if the availability of information isn’t worth the IT investment around virtualization or other security measures needed to protect your network while allowing remote access, you may want to pass on BYOD for now.
For those that do see the advantages of BYOD, there are options to consider. Too many companies fail to plan and control their network, but if you have any information on your network you want to protect, and I can’t imagine that you don’t, you’ll need some level of security.
Virtualization is one of the more popular solutions, as this provides remote access but the processing and data stay in corporate control, not on the device. This is the most secure solution. The walled garden approach involves a secure application on the personal device, which allows for data and processing to live on the employee’s device, but keeps it separate from personal data and apps. The least secure method is that of limited separation which does not create barriers between company and personal data but relies on policies to enforce proper handling of information.
Making the move
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” holds true in the BYOD movement, and not protecting your network isn’t a plan. BYOD adoption can lead to great benefits for your company and its employees, but it requires a carefully planned out approach that considers your unique business situation. Fortunately, the technology is out there to make executing your plan easy, you just need to think and decide.
Bruno Galera works for Dell and is a major BYOD promoter for businesses and higher education. When he’s not reading about the latest industry trends, you can find him running, reading, and cheering on his favorite football team or at a museum enjoying contemporary art and photography.