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BYOD: With (Employee) Freedom Comes (IT) Responsibility

Understand the full story before jumping on the BYOD bandwagon. There are some hidden costs and a learning curve.

I have a fully stocked stationery cupboard at work, but I still bring my own Sharpie and Livescribe pens because I prefer them.

These days, people expect to do the same with their favourite mobile devices. Ten years ago, it was just the road warriors who had mobiles, but now everyone has them, and what’s more, they have preferences.

Welcome to the BYOD (bring your own device) revolution. With a recent report from Gartner showing that 70 percent of companies are allowing it, BYOD is looking all but decided, a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’ issue. It’s true that BYOD can be cost effective for organizations, with employees picking up the tab for their own hardware, and being more productive outside of the office to boot.

It’s also true that this isn’t a free ride. It’s important for companies to understand the full story before jumping on the BYOD bandwagon. For one thing, there is some cost to IT, and a learning curve. IT needs some way to manage the fleet of devices accessing the corporate network, to require passwords, to be able to remote lock (temporarily disable) and wipe (permanently erase) lost and stolen devices, blacklist certain apps, etc.

For another thing, all the new devices can put a serious toll on the company WiFi. Employee data consumption increases, and security risks go up right along with it. Mobile apps can potentially infect the corporate network and other devices with Trojans/viruses and other malicious code. Logging on via a public WiFi network t a café, hotel or airport is has real potential to be insecure.

The best way to deal with all the challenges is to implement a mobile device management (MDM) package, which gives IT the control it needs over any number and type of devices, while giving employees the freedom they need. Toss in a governance policy for good measure, which clearly spells out what’s kosher and what’s not, and you’ll be in good shape for reaping the cost, satisfaction, and productivity benefits from BYOD—instead of keeping yourself up nights.