BYOD: Good or Bad For Your Company?

More companies are enabling a BYOD workplace with nearly 30 percent of CIOs polled saying that they support employees using their own digital devices for their jobs, reports IT World. Challenges to this concept come from IT and security management, who wonder how they are supposed keep company assets secure. Knowing these challenges will help you decide whether the upside is worth the costs to your company to offer BYOD.

The Upside of BYOD

There are two primary reasons voiced by companies for justifying BYOD in their workplaces: cost savings and productivity.

Allowing employees to use their own digital devices transfers the cost of providing them with these tools from the company to the employee. In most BYOD programs, the employee continues to pay for their own equipment and service plans. This could be a tangible expense relief of $80 or more per employee with a smartphone or tablet, states CIO Magazine.

The second reason is that employees prefer their own devices. They would rather work with those than learn new company-provided tools. This leads to an increase in morale and productivity, according to Computer Weekly.

The Downside of BYOD

Without the right controls in place, employees can connect to the company network and have access to sensitive information. They could corrupt company data with unauthorized applications. They could also unintentionally infect the company's system with malware. An employee could take their personal laptop home and unknowingly download a virus onto it while browsing a website. The next morning they connect their laptop to the company's network and load a virus in the system.

The Reality of BYOD

While the acronym BYOD is new, the concept is not. People have been bringing their own personal devices to work for years, notes the Digital Workplace Forum. Personal laptops, DVD burners, hard disks, and thumb drives have shown up on employee's desks for years. It has been a challenge of IT and management to detect and monitor these devices to prevent harm to the company's information. One rationale for implementing a BYOD policy is to finally control those items that are going to show up in the workplace anyway.

More Freedom Requires More Controls

Forbes stresses that, more than ever, the BYOD environment needs a digital-use policy which explicitly states what devices are supported and what an employee can and cannot do. Other elements than need to be implemented include:

  • A certified apps library maintained by the company to control which applications can be downloaded to personal smartphones, tablets and laptops
  • Secure collaboration and work areas where employees may work with a subset of the company data without putting the entire intellectual capital at risk
  • A process or service, such as Lifelock, to monitor the Internet for company data inadvertently released onto the network
  • A mobile device management system

The implementation of these tools to protect the company's digital assets, the creation of a robust digital use policy, and the additional employee training have a cost. You'll need to weigh those costs against the anticipated benefits gained from your BYOD workplace. For a small business, the cost of protecting the company's assets may be beyond their budget. The temptation to cut corners to support BYOD might be there. But one piece of malware that corrupts critical data could be too costly to bear.

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