Several organizations these days allow, as well as encourage, employees to bring their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops to work. Some of these companies also give employees an allowance to buy their own devices and use them for work.
This bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, however, presents a challenge to traditional IT departments that prefer greater control over every device on the network.
Apart from personal devices, employees use online services for work intertwined with their personal ecosystem. Several people use social networks for work purposes like recruitment, marketing, and research, and many prefer using online storage and collaboration services to share work files or business communication instead of organization-managed applications.
Such consumer applications, services, and devices are invading office spaces and filling business needs. In some cases, this is done by geeky individuals without the support of the company. However, several businesses are embracing the idea of online services and personal devices to improve productivity and reduce IT costs.
Jay Vikram Bakshi, director of a Delhi-based digital marketing agency Digiqom, sees it as a positive trend. He asserted: "The whole idea is to benefit from the cost savings from fixed to pay-per-use, and additionally take advantage of open APIs (application programming interfaces) to adapt and modify traditional usage into scale, flexibility, and innovative usage."
There is, of course, the other side of this unmanaged adoption of cloud services and consumer devices in businesses--the security challenges brought about by the storage, management, and transfer of corporate data.
IT departments are struggling with tracking how and where corporate data is used. According to Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report, as users shift to mobile and cloud, so will attackers. It should come as no surprise that mobile platforms and cloud services will be likely targets for attacks and breaches in 2013. The rapid rise of Android malware in 2012 confirms this.
The threats are usually followed by vendor offerings. India telecoms player Bharti Airtel, for example, launched a new service--Dynamic Mobile Exchange Solution--which is touted to help organizations adopt BYOD without compromising data security. The service offers data "containerization" and secure browser for applications accessed with single sign-on across multiple device platforms, and empowers IT administrators to remotely manage security policies, device settings, certificates, applications, and operating systems.
At the announcement, Drew Kelton, president of Airtel Business at Bharti Airtel, said: "With changing business environment, youth driven trends like BYOD is gaining ground in India. According to industry estimates, approximately 70 percent of all smartphone-owning professionals are now using their personal devices to access corporate data, but almost 80 percent of today's BYOD activity remain inadequately managed because of various security concerns.
"This calls for businesses to implement innovative solutions that allow them to take control and benefit from BYOD phenomenon--without losing corporate data," Kelton added.