BYOD—for those not in the know, it doesn’t stand for ‘Bring Your Own Drinks’. It’s ‘Bring Your Own Device’ and it’s becoming more and more popular.
At first glance, BYOD is a great deal for both businesses and employees. It’s convenient to just use your high-grade laptop to link into the work servers and get stuff done wherever and whenever you need to. For businesses, that’s less IT infrastructure to pay for.
But is it really worth the payoff?
The Pros of BYOD
There are pros, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great way to avoid using that old piece of hardware your business may have provided you with. Most people have more investment in their own stuff, particularly a device they will be using both at work and home.
It’s also potentially more comfortable. Users are familiar with their own devices, and having only one lot of devices to manage. It also means employees may be easier to engage outside of set work hours.
… And Now For The Cons
Attracted by the shiny glinting idea of cutting down on IT hardware costs, many businesses don’t think of the true toll of a BYOD policy—one that might far outweigh the commercial benefits.
Firstly, from the employee’s perspective. You’ve been waiting for your workplace to give you the minimal equipment needed to do your job. Then, they come out and announce a BYOD policy. The message is clear: if you want to do your job here, you need to buy your own equipment.
You suck it up and purchase a new laptop. After handing it over to the IT staff and having them install all sorts of things on your own device you have no idea about, you take it home… only to get contacted by work out of hours.
Later in the week, you try to download an app for your kids onto your brand new device. Instead of working out, you’re locked out of the computer for violating permissions… on your own device. When you take it into IT again, they wipe all your personal data and just restore the business stuff. The data loss isn’t just corporate now: it’s yours AND theirs.
As you’re getting the laptop you bought fixed, you realize one of your colleagues bought a much nicer one with extra software that gets his work done far more quickly. That means he’s more likely to be up for promotion and and kudos, all because he forked out for the latest model.
Sound like a breeding ground for resentment? BYOD can have just as much chance of backfiring on employee morale as it can at raising it.
Does BYOD Actually Cut Costs?
BYOD can be a short term solution that leads to larger long term costs. If you buy the devices for your employees—sometimes a smarter move than allowing use of their existing ones—you’ve got upfront capital that needs to be put down. Then, you’ve got the increased use of corporate internet for personal reasons, which may skyrocket your bandwidth.
You’re also potentially chewing up your IT department’s time. There’s the extra configuration needed for these devices, needing to account for non-business related apps being installed on them, and all the security to deal with. The biggest unseen issue is that when something goes wrong with a BYOD device at home, your IT department is now the first port of call.
There’s also the legal minefield that BYOD presents. One of your employees illegally downloads movies on the laptop they also use for work. So is it a personal infringement or a corporate one?
The Glaring Security and Privacy Issues
BYOD is a hotspot of security and privacy problems. Imagine your workplace having legal access to all your browsing history, documents, files, and even your social media accounts. Likewise, these things can open up holes in the tightly build security screen around your business.
Employees will naturally use mobile apps, connect to external hotspots and access data that can potentially compromise their BYOD hardware. If malware finds its way onto a home-used device—such as an employee’s kid downloading something they shouldn’t—it can potentially infect your business servers. While your employees might be trained in best practice, are their families?
If you’re trying to cut down on costs, this means employees will probably be responsible for managing their own software—antivirus, firewalls, etc—and making sure these are up-to-date. Unless they’re really on the ball, this is another potential IT risk for your business.
Conclusion: BYOD Is Not A Universal Panacea
If you’re looking for a simple solution for cutting business expenditure, BYOD may be more trouble than it’s worth. While it may offer a lot of flexibility and bring a lot of benefits to your business, you need to make sure you’ve properly evaluated the risks. It may be that the problems associated with BYOD are not a big deal for your business, in which case, more power to you. But being aware of them means not being caught off guard if they start to manifest.
Whether you’re allowing BYOD with your business or not, you can pre-preemptively protect both your employee’s and your business data by properly backing it up. Making regular copies of your corporate data means that even if there is a security breech or a data loss incident, you can quickly recover it and minimize any potential damage.