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Asian users go DIY with BYOD

Employees in Asia are relying on their own resources to enable personal devices for work since IT support from their companies comes up short, new survey reveals.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--Companies in Asia are not rendering enough IT support to help employees use personal devices for work as part of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. This is pushing workers to find their own ways to access corporate networks or data via their gadgets, and inadvertently risks creating security holes for potential company data loss or theft.

According to a new study commissioned by VMware, employees in Asia including those in Singapore are taking IT into their own hands because IT support to enable the use of personal devices at work is either absent or ignored. Executives from the virtualization software vendor unveiled key findings from the study at a media briefing here Friday.

Employees in Asia are taking IT into their own hands, since their company does not give sufficient IT support for personal devices at the workplace.

Conducted by Acorn Research between last December and January this year, the Asia-Pacific study surveyed 2,142 respondents between 18 and 64 years of age across 12 countries. These were Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. All respondents were from companies with over 1,000 employees.

Of the 150 respondents from Singapore, 60 percent said they "try and make it work myself" if there was no IT support for their personal devices in the office. About half of respondents, or 52 percent, also said they would "Google for an answer".

Across Asia, 69 percent of employees relied on their own IT resources to support personal devices, while 63 percent said they searched the Web for help.

Some of the methods employees used to fix their own BYOD issues were not necessarily technical in nature, William Ngoh, Asean senior product marketing manager at VMware, told ZDNet on the sidelines of the event. For example, an employee may forward certain work e-mail to his personal Web mail account, or upload an e-mail attachment containing sensitive information to his personal cloud storage. He would enable himself to access work data by using his personal mail or cloud storage account on his smartphone or tablet, Ngoh explained.

What would happen next was what IT typically would want to prevent in the first place--holes would be created in the organization's security or firewall, noted Matthew Hardman, senior product manager for cloud infrastructure solutions for Asean and India at VMware, who was at the same interview.

These holes could lead to potential data loss or theft if an employee's device was misplaced or stolen, for example, he cautioned. Such risks are heightened since it involves a personal device, and users could have saved passwords for convenience to avoid keying them repeatedly for frequently-used apps such as e-mail, Hardman noted.

"Users aren't thinking security [but] it's not incorrect to want the easiest way to get things done fast," he said.

BYOD adoption going up
According to the study, employees in Asia considered BYOD beneficial. Some 68 percent said being able to use a device of their choosing for work made them happier, while 75 percent said it made them more efficient and productive by working outside the office.

But while 83 percent of employees in the region brought personal devices to work, only 50 percent said IT provided the support needed. The disparity was wider in Singapore where 89 percent used their own devices at work but only 33 percent said IT would provide support.

These results are not surprising, Hardman said. Very few organizations in Asia currently provide a high level of active IT support for personal-owned devices. The other reason is the speed and number of different devices and OSes (operating systems) entering the workplace.

The direction BYOD in Asia is heading is upward, said Hardman, who called on companies to embrace the trend. One key step is to virtualize the company's applications and data, and have IT stream them in a controlled, secure manner as on-demand services for employees to access via any device such as a PC or smartphone. So in the eyes of employees, these enterprise tools are "just as good" and easy to use as those in the consumer market, Hardman said.

In short, the approach should be to manage the end-users, not the devices they owned. The number and variety of devices would not be slowing down, he said. Asia is "crazy for devices", as seen by the growing rate of individual ownership of more than one device, and the speed of new devices and OSes released into the market, he noted.

Meanwhile, mobile devices also sport simpler functionalities, so users, especially the tech-savvy "Millennials" or Generation Y, quickly learn how to "fiddle" with the device to enable BYOD for themselves at work, Hardman explained.

Millenials are on track to form the majority in Asia's workforce, making 59 percent of the study's respondents, according to VMware. In Singapore, 58 percent of respondents were Millenials.

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