5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

Summary: Even if the idea of supporting employee-owned smartphones, tablets and notebooks is a pipedream, it will alter how your organization approaches mobile technology.


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to debate the pros and cons of the "bring your own device" (BYOD) movement with my fellow ZDNet blogger Ken Hess. My position was that this is a pipe dream for most companies, because of the inherent management challenges.

Mind you, I love the spirit of this idea, I just think it is unrealistic without some serious attention to the infrastructure and support policies within your organization. There is one really good reason not to let employees use their own smartphone, notebook or tablet at work: It is a management nightmare.

For starters, there are inherent security and regulatory compliance risks. Even if you mandate certain products or technologies people can bring and use, it will be next to impossible to make sure everyone keeps their machines updated with the proper OS and application patches. Unless you have control.

Don’t expect to save money, either. Many businesses supporting BYOD expect employees to buy and support devices on their own dime. But infrastructure and security policies need to be rock-solid behind that. This takes investment and new IT management policies. Is your organization ready?

Be honest: Do you want someone telling you what you can and cannot do with your personal technology? BYOD seems like a great idea for productivity, until you try manage it.

Still, while I don't think the "Bring Your Own Device" mantra is one that will or should be embraced by every company, small and midsize businesses should be prepared to feel its impact in the following ways.

#1: Your technology upgrade cycles will be shorter Forget, three to five years. Most smartphones are turned over every two years (at the most), because of carrier contracts. That means employees will be exposed to new features more quickly. Think about the evolution of Skype. It started out as a consumer service, but small businesses quickly figured out it was a way to save money and they started using it for that purpose, even before it was designed to do so.

#2: You will need to support more devices, not fewer Some of the other writers here on ZDNet love to declare the demise of the BlackBerry, and they love to dispel the notion that Windows mobile editions will count within a business setting. Even if your company chooses not to let employees bring their own smartphones, consumer tablets or notebooks into their work setting, it will need to consider adding more devices to the menu that it will allow people to use while they are on the go. Consider this an evolution of your corporate benefits or perks strategies. People should be able to choose their own device for work, even if they don't own them outright.

#3: You need to rethink how you distribute applications Thanks to Apple, most of us have become really familiar with the idea that you can download pretty much any application you need from searchable store. Over time, employees will come to expect the same from our IT team. Updates and upgrades will be enforced through alerts, much like the store concept.

#4: You can't ignore mobile security Mobile malware and antivirus software packages exist, but they haven’t been widely used. If you allow people to bring their own mobile device, that needs to change. What's more, your organization will need to govern what data can and cannot be downloaded locally. That's especially true in certain industries, especially healthcare or financial services.

#5: You need to rethink the concept of mobility. IDC expects the number of mobile workers worldwide to surpass 1.2 billion by 2013. But what does mobility really mean, anyway?  Why would you provision someone with a desktop computer -- even if it is a person who traditionally works in a back office position -- if there is a chance that he or she might need location flexibility in the future? After all, Forrester Research predicts that up to 60 percent of information workers will need to work in some location outside their office during the average workweek. Does that number jibe with the number of notebook computers, media tablets or smartphones that are available to employees within your organization?

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Security, Tablets

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  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

    Even while security threats persist and are expected to grow, BYOD is achievable. Each organization must weigh the pros and cons. BYOD can lead to a happier, more productive and more innovative workforce however, the end user must accept some responsibilities and like compliance, demonstrate measures have been taken to protect the device. Random audits of BYOD-employees can be tied to compensation, perks, or required attendance at an eSecurity training. BYOD can't be a one-way street.
  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

    In summary: those who are afraid of bears do not go to the forest.
  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

    So this is actually not seen as really cheap on the part of the companies involved? If a job requires that you have a phone, the usual protocol is to provide and pay for that phone. Giving the impression of a "must have one or you shouldn't be here" trend in America's office-bound professions is really underestimating the intelligence and common sense of a younger generation of employees that will not ever actually need to use one of these tech products for their work, for the most part.
  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

    Great post Heather, and we at Symantec agree - serious attention does need to be paid to the infrastructure and support policies within your organization if you allow your employees to bring in their own mobile devices. Policies must be set to help employees of these organizations to protect both their information and devices. Such policies should cover password enforcement, only allowing devices featuring encryption capabilities to connect to the infrastructure and restricting any jail broken or rooted devices from connecting to the network. In addition, steps should be taken to secure such data on mobile devices from unauthorized users and hackers. Encryption is one of the best ways to go about this. Mobile security software is also a must for a comprehensive security approach.

    Spencer Parkinson
  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

    When I use my device outside of company work hours, just exactly whose policies are to be enforced? If my company blocks xyz.com during work hours, fine. But after work hours are over, can I surf over to xyz.com without setting off alerts via the company policies/software?
  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

    If a device is required to do the job you were hired for shouldn't it be the responsibility of the employer to provide it...not the employee?
  • RE: 5 ways 'bring your own device' will impact your company

    Very interesting post Heather! I agree that allowing people to bring their own mobile devices into a company can certainly pose a great threat to security. With the increasing use of mobile devices on internal networks, organizations are now at risk of emerging mobile-based data breaches. One of the ways they can protect themselves is by ensuring network layer Data Leakage Prevention (DLP) to prevent the outflow of user data. Our company, Wedge Networks continues to lead the efforts through Deep Content Inspection to prevent the good things from flowing out and the bad things from flowing in.