The Top 3 Issues in the Bring Your Own Device Debate

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, which allow employees to use their personal devices at work, are rapidly gaining acceptance. They seek to balance mobile security concerns with employee productivity.

BYOD has been touted as the most radical change to the client computing industry in decades. While it does offer a wealth of potential advantages, BYOD still has its opponents. Here are the top three issues that companies need to know about this policy debate.

1. The Prevalence of Personal Devices

Personal devices such as tablets and smartphones are everywhere nowadays. Large numbers of employees are using them at work whether their companies like it or not. As a result, the business world is being forced to adapt.

BYOD is rapidly gaining acceptance in the corporate world. A recent LinkedIn poll of over 1,100 IT professionals found that 24% had an official BYOD policy. In general, BYOD policies are continuing to increase along with the proliferation of personal devices in the workplace.

In another study, the Gartner research firm found that, by 2017, half of all companies will likely force their employees to provide their own devices for work. This global study also determined that seven of every ten mobile professionals will likely work on personal devices by 2018.

The above figures make sense when viewed along with economic findings from MarketsandMarkets. This research and consulting firm predicts huge growth for the BYOD market, which was set at USD$71.93 billion in 2013. According to MarketsandMarkets, the sector will climb to USD$266.17 billion by 2019.

2. The Uses and Benefits of BYOD

Companies typically cite employee satisfaction as a major reason for their adoption of a BYOD policy. Improved employee satisfaction is seen as both a motivator for change and a way of measuring a policy's success after its implementation. Enhanced satisfaction often leads to employees' increased mobility and productivity.

According to the LinkedIn survey, the most common apps among BYOD users are for email, calendar, and contact list management. Many professionals also use their mobile devices for accessing and editing documents. These applications tend to use a company's internal network, which is one of the hot buttons in the ongoing BYOD debate.

An unauthorised person could access a company's data and internal network if they managed to steal or break into an employee's device. Yet, the versatility of BYOD lets employees work in a more efficient way.

The LinkedIn survey also found other BYOD benefits such as reduced hardware expenditure and operational costs. A Cisco report published in 2013 calculated that a basic BYOD policy gained companies an annual average of USD$350 per mobile user. More comprehensive BYOD programs caused this figure to jump to USD$1,300 per mobile user.

3. Risks and Security Concerns

Two-thirds of the organisations surveyed by LinkedIn said that their main BYOD concern was data security. The theft or loss of the physical device itself is a major risk, but not the only one. IT professionals worry that employees will accidentally download apps or content with dangerous security exploits. Malware infections pose another problem, but one not unique to BYOD.

To handle BYOD security challenges, many companies are using measures like password protection, mandatory use of encryption, and remote deletion of data. Surprisingly, a large number of organisations have said they have no specific mobile device management program in place. However, this number is expected to shrink considerably in the next few years.

Many organisations plan to ramp up their IT resources to cope with additional security risks presented by BYOD. However, the Cisco report stated that companies can reduce their costs by re-implementing their corporate help desks with internet-based support options such as community support, forums, and wikis.

As mobile devices become more pervasive, businesses must consider how they will handle them in the workplace. Many businesses have already adopted BYOD policies, but others are still weighing the risks. Addressing issues like mobile security, either independently or with the help of experts, is one way for firms to stay competitive in the digital era.

About the Author                          

Geoff Stewart

Geoff is a highly experienced and skilled Technology Director at Surety IT. His knowledge is based on years of industry experience having created customised, stable, well performing systems both for multi-national companies in the UK and Australia and Surety IT customers.

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